Stalwart stewardship REI TACKles invasive weeds at dugualla Heights Lagoon

The job was colossal. A jungle of Canada thistle with mats of seed heads as thick as pillows greeted a group of mostly young men and women who came to Whidbey Island looking for a way to care for the land.

The group, made up of about 25 employees from REI Headquarters in Kent, wanted to tackle a stewardship project together not far from their campsite at Deception Pass State Park. They contacted the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, which had just the project for them.

For about four hours on a warm afternoon in August, REI employees removed 240 pounds of thistle seed heads from a protected property near Dugualla Bay. The seed heads filled 30 30-gallon trash bags.

The job at the Dugualla Heights Lagoon was far too big to get them all, but that didn’t deter the volunteers from clipping away at all they could.

“Are you kidding me? I love doing service-oriented projects,” said Chris Pottinger, an employee with REI. “It’s a great way to interact with colleagues in a different way. We’re putting our company values to work.”

Volunteer efforts such as these are vital to the Land Trust’s mission to protect and care for lands. In 2016, 168 volunteers put in nearly 3,700 hours caring for lands protected by the Land Trust on Whidbey and Camano islands.

In 2016, 70 volunteer work parties were organized to care for preserves that are open to the public.

Removing invasive species at the Dugualla Heights Lagoon was a high priority because they were crowding out many of the more than 3,000 young native plants that were planted last spring and fall.

Since 2009, the land has been protected through a conservation easement held by the Land Trust. Restoration efforts have been ongoing to improve habitat for the benefit of salmon and other wildlife.

“It definitely seems there’s a real need in our region in helping remove invasive species,” Pottinger said. “I don’t mind that. Somebody’s got to do it.”

“REI is really big on stewardship,” said Steve Moenaert, a product development engineer.

Moenaert said he could appreciate how much work goes into such ongoing stewardship.

“The people who do this seem to have a real passion for it,” he said.

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