What does Earth Day mean beyond the cleanups and events? How do you bring this celebration of protecting the earth home to your community? While I encourage folks to go out and pick up trash, plant trees, and pull weeds, I think this day is also a good opportunity to look around and appreciate where you live. We are particularly blessed in South Columbia County. We still have wild salmon returning to spawn in our creeks, swimming right through the middle of Scappoose and St. Helens (look for them in the late fall). Eagles soar over Highway 30 and osprey return to their nests each spring. Scappoose Bay, an amazing freshwater tidal estuary, is just down the road next to the field with the sentinel oak tree and contented cows. Forests still cover the hills and there are many miles of trails to explore.
With our busy schedules, it is too easy to overlook what we have in our backyard. I am grateful that I work in a place where I can look out at Scappoose Bay, tramp around in the woods, and investigate creeks to find out what is living there. For Earth Day I would like to share my love of this watershed, and ask people to take a deeper look at the place you call home. I admit to having a certain bias since my idea of having a good time involves mucking around in creeks, but I think there is value here for everyone in the community.
This is a community that is still closely tied to the land. Timber, gravel, and other natural resources help fuel the local economy. The marina fills up with fishing boats when the salmon are running. I ask the hunters when I want to know about forest conditions. I meet people who have had family here for five generations, and people who just moved in and are already connected to their section of creek or couple of acres. This is also community that is changing, with more people in town and more cars on the road headed for work in Portland and over the hill to Washington County. The thing that brings this community together is that, at the end of the day, this is where everyone calls home. We have a choice on what that home looks like now and into the future.
So, stop for a moment and take a look at where you live. Keep an eye out for an eagle. Enjoy the view of Mt. St. Helens, Hood, Adams, or Rainier (weather permitting). Get out on the water, into the woods, or just in your backyard. I hope that you will take the time to appreciate the wonders of this watershed, and choose something that you'd stake a claim to, something you'd like to protect for yourself and for the future.
Editor's note: Janelle St. Pierre is coordinator of the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council.