Earth Sanctuary, located on South Whidbey Island, is a 72-acre aquatic, wetlands and forest preserve. Part ecological restoration project and part retreat area, Earth Sanctuary's mission is to combine exemplary ecology with art and spirit to create a sanctuary for birds and wildlife and a peaceful place for personal renewal and spiritual connection.
Here's how they do it:
Logged just 20 years ago, Earth Sanctuary's land suffered from diminished plant and wildlife diversity. The goal of the restoration project is to bring the land back to a more natural profile. This will include, an abundance of conifers, shrubs and plants, and the removal of non-native and invasive plant species. Founder Chuck Pettis says that every year he and his team of ecological restoration experts create a plan for planting approximately 300 western red cedar, grand fir, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, yew and yellow cedar conifers. Over the next nine years Earth Sanctuary plans to replant the entire 72-acre property with the trees that will grow into a old-growth forest. Dan Borroff, Earth Sanctuary’s Landscape Designer, explains that Earth Sanctuary holds annual reviews to monitor the success of their efforts. Many native plant species are planted in key areas of the Sanctuary with the idea that those plants will reproduce and spread throughout the 72 acres.
Earth Sanctuary partners with the University of Washington Restoration Ecology Network, a program that integrates students, faculty, and members of the community in ecological restoration efforts, to plan and execute restoration projects.
Earth Sanctuary contains two streams and three ponds. These wetlands filter and purify water that flows into the Useless Bay watershed. The use of water weirs, or damns, keep the pond water at maximum levels and control the out-flow to other ponds.
The forested areas of the Earth Sanctuary provide habitat resources for as many as 90 species of birds, 45 species of mammals, nine species of amphibians, and five species of reptiles. One of the primary goals of Earth Sanctuary is to provide conditions conducive to a diversity and abundance of animal life. Towards that goal, Earth Sanctuary is committed to specific forest management strategies that will enhance wildlife habitat and the wildlife population. For example, Earth Sanctuary has been installing bird nesting houses since 2002 to improve bird breeding— they close off part of the trail under the Osprey nest between April and June to provide optimal conditions for breeding.
Earth Sanctuary has created a 500 Year Plan, acknowledging it will take centuries for the forest ecosystem to recover and develop and significant, long-term commitment, is necessary to make this happen. The detailed report, prepared by wetland and river ecologist Kevin Fetherston, can be found here. Earth Sanctuary hopes this plan will inspire future developers and ecologists.