A Tribute to Kurt Thorson

While we all rely heavily on words to tell our stories, there is no substitute for a good photograph. When it came to conveying the work of the San Juan Preservation Trust, no photographer provided more spectacular and compelling island images to us than did Kurt Thorson, a longtime resident of Orcas Island who had deep roots on Waldron.

On June 11, we lost Kurt to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). We send deepest condolences to his wife, Robin Freeman, and their daughter, Tika.

Over the past 15 years, Kurt’s photos transformed our outreach efforts. Whenever we take our stories to the outside world, whether through our newsletters, website, brochures, or public presentations, we have leaned heavily on Kurt’s eye and images to drive home the urgency of this work. A carpenter by profession, he spent many evenings, early mornings and weekends in the field, hiking the backcountry with his camera as he chased the light. From wildlife to native plants to sweeping landscapes, Kurt was a photographic perfectionist: He would take dozens of shots of a single subject or vista before moving on to the next image.

The Preservation Trust leaned heavily on Kurt over the past 15 years, enlisting him whenever we were about to launch an important capital campaign or project. He was under-compensated, to be sure, but we know he found tremendous gratification from the knowledge that he was advancing the cause of land conservation in our islands. From Turtleback to Vendovi Island, Mount Grant to Zylstra Lake, he was responsible for most of the iconic images we’ve shared with you. Kurt Thorson may not be with us anymore, but we will continue to tell our stories, and see our islands, through his remarkable eyes.

Click here to see a gallery showing just a few of Kurt’s most enduring images.

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See Our May 2018 E-Newsletter

American Camp Prairie, San Juan Island | Jeff Brennan

In this month’s issue:

  • Note from Angela: Growing Community Conservation (Part I)
  • Have You Seen This Butterfly?
  • A New Way to Visit Vendovi
  • Speaking of Vendovi …
  • Photo of the Month (By Joe Belcovson)
  • Upcoming Events
  • Profile in Perpetuity: Susan McBain & Steve Jung

See it here!

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Vendovi Wildflower Gallery

These photos of camas, spring gold, chocolate and fawn lilies were taken during a Tiptop League* outing to Vendovi Island on April 14, 2018. A big thank-you to SJPT member Gene Helfman for sharing these with us. (Click a photo to enlarge it.)

* The Tiptop League consists of members who annually provide unrestricted support of $1,000 or more to the Preservation Trust.

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Have You Seen this Butterfly?

An Island Marble butterfly feeding on field mustard at American Camp | Photo: Jeff Brennan

The rare and wonderful island marble butterfly is on the wing. Its field season has begun. With likely fewer than 200 marbles in existence and an adult lifespan often lasting 10 days or less, the butterfly’s opportunities to breed are limited and intense. Time is of the essence to support this enigmatic beauty and to help it find safe havens here on San Juan Island.

The Preservation Trust’s “suitable habitat patches” (SHPs) at Frazer Homestead and Sundstrom Farm Preserve on San Juan Island continue to bloom, acting as bright yellow beacons to lure island marbles to these safe zones.

We watch, wait, and monitor each bloom. We hold our breath as each white butterfly that comes into view possibly holds the promise of island marble.

The Preservation Trust looks forward to expanding its current patch program across the island, but that will take time. If you would like to be involved now, here’s what you can do:

Go to the SJPT website and familiarize yourself with island marble, its habitat and host plants, including field mustard (Brassica rapa).

Brassica rapa (field mustard) plants | Photo: Jeff Brennan

• Check your garden or property (both in town and across San Juan Island) for field mustard. If it is present, look for white butterflies nectaring (feeding) on the blooms. The butterflies you see will likely be cabbage whites, but they could be island marbles. Look closely. Check the details. Be especially alert for the yellow, gold, and white pattern on the underside of the butterfly’s wings. If you see this marbling, contact SJPT Stewardship Manager Kathleen Foley at kathleenf@sjpt.org and we will investigate.

Here is an identification guide, courtesy of the Washington Department of Wildlife.

Saving endangered wildlife requires all hands on deck. The Preservation Trust encourages islanders to get actively involved in saving this rare insect. You may already have a safe zone for island marble on your land. That would be an important discovery and a great help to the butterfly. Island Marble calls the San Juans home, and so do we. Let’s all work together to ensure that this special butterfly continues to have a place in our midst.

– Susan Vernon

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Just Add Butterflies

A habitat patch” (SHP) for island marble in spring bloom. Susan Vernon photo

“Just add butterflies.” That’s what SJPT Stewardship Manager Kathleen Foley said when she saw this gorgeous bloom of Brassica and Blush at the Sundstrom Farm Preserve site on May 3.

This is one of two Suitable Habitat Patches (SHPs) developed by Kathleen and her crews (in collaboration with the Island Marble Butterfly Task Force) to support the rare island marble butterfly. The marble’s flight season has just begun and biologists are hoping these mustard patches will lure the butterfly to safe havens for reproducing and expanding its range.

Flight season for island marble is from mid-April to approximately mid-June. During this period, butterflies will be emerging from their overwintering pupal stage into flying adults. Once mated, the females will lay eggs on Brassica and other host plants and the one-year reproductive cycle will begin again.

The first island marbles of this season were reported at South Beach/American Camp on May 2. The south end of San Juan Island is the last stronghold for this subspecies of Euchloe ausonides that was recently proposed for endangered species status by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Preservation Trust will be monitoring its SHPs throughout the island marble field season. Both the butterfly’s host plant (Brassica rapa) and several nectar plants including blush (Plectritis  congesta), field chickweed (Cerastium arvense) and blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora) are currently thriving—a beacon of hope for this rare and beautiful insect. Now, we eagerly await the butterflies.

Stay tuned for more episodes in the incredible saga of the island marble butterfly. Click here to learn more.

– Susan Vernon  

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Celebrate the Year of the Bird on Sunday, May 6

From our friends at the San Juan County Land Bank:

Western Tanager on Vendovi Island | Kurt Thorson

Join the Land Bank, the San Juan Preservation Trust, Wolf Hollow, San Juan Island National Historical Park, and San Juan County Master Gardener Foundation as they celebrate the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act from 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Sunday, May 6 at Red Mill Farm on San Juan Island.

There will be activities for the whole family to enjoy, from bird bingo to a Western bluebird presentation from Kathleen Foley, the preservation trust’s stewardship manager and winner of the Disney Conservation Hero award for her work with the San Juan Islands Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project.

Children of all ages are welcome, but please leave dogs at home. Refreshments and prizes will be provided.

Parking at Red Mill Farm is limited, so park in Friday Harbor and catch the free shuttle bus generously provided by San Juan Transit.

The bus will leave from outside the Grange Hall at 152 North First St. at 10:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m and 1:15 p.m. The bus will leave Red Mill Farm at about 10:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:45 p.m., and 2:45 p.m.

For more information, contact Tanja Williamson at 360-378-4402 or tanjaw@sjclandbank.org.

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See Our March E-Newsletter

Camas blooming on Vendovi Island | Tom Dempsey

In this month’s issue:

  • Note from Angela: Buoyed by Our Shared Values
  • You’re Invited to SJPT’s 39th Annual Meeting
  • GiveBIG Day is Coming Up
  • Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign
  • Honoring Tim Seifert
  • Photo of the Month (Parks Bay by Adam Griesemer)
  • Upcoming Events
  • Profile in Perpetuity: Jean Schuster

See it here!

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Honoring Tim Seifert

To recognize and celebrate all that Tim Seifert accomplished during his 15+ years as SJPT’s Executive Director, the board and staff have created the Tim Seifert Endowed Fund. Contributions will provide resources needed to care for the land preserved during Tim’s tenure. …

Under Tim’s leadership, the San Juan Preservation Trust grew from a local organization with modest ambitions to a leader in regional conservation efforts, capable of completing multimillion-dollar acquisition campaigns. These include the Campaign to Save Turtleback Mountain and many others.

The “Tribute to Tim Seifert” video below tells the story of Tim’s conservation legacy in these islands. To help us celebrate and steward this legacy, please consider making a gift to the Tim Seifert Endowed Fund.

Donate to the Tim Seifert Endowed Fund

Watch the video . . .

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Wanted: 2018 Summer Intern Applicants

We’re now seeking applicants for the 2018 Fred E. Ellis Summer Internship. This is a six-week paid position based in our office in Friday Harbor. This internship program is designed to expose the Intern to the entire range of activities performed by a conservation land trust, while providing the Preservation Trust with needed assistance in reaching its goals.

See the job description and application information here.

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See Our February E-Newsletter

In this month’s issue:

  • Field Note by Susan Vernon: Black Sea Pies
  • Welcome to our New Executive Director
  • 2018 Events & Outings Now Open for Registration
  • Wanted: Summer Internship Applicants
  • Upcoming Events
  • Profile in Perpetuity

See it here!

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