By Pat Jenkins
When it comes to partners in conservation, Nisqually Land Trust believes there are none better than the Eatonville School District.
The Land Trust's annual Conservation Dinner and Auction next month will include the presentation of its Partner of the Year Award to the school district in recognition of school officials' work on preserving the former Burwash Farm property and converting it to educational purposes.
Three acres of the site, including farm buildings, were transferred by the Land Trust to the school district last year. Now they are teaming to develop a campus for science, technology, engineering and math learning.
Among other things, students will use the site to grow and produce farm products.
Krestin Bahr, the district's superintendent, said the goal is to preserve not only the physical location but also its stories as they relate to the history of rural farming.
"This site has been very important to Eatonville residents, and we look forward to incorporating the past into our students' futures," Bahr said.
The school-Land Trust hookup is believed to be the first of its kind in Washington.
Plans for using the farmland for agricultural studies and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs hit a bump last spring when voters in the district defeated a bond measure that included a request for funding for the Burwash project. But supporters remain committed to it.
The farm site is part of 414 acres the Land Trust acquired in the Ohop Valley near Eatonville in conjunction with the Ohop Creek restoration project.
The Nisqually Land Trust protects about 6,000 acres of the Nisiqually watershed between Mount Rainier National Park and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The areas include habitat for salmon and threatenend wildlife.
"With the help of supporters, we are also protecting water quality, creating local jobs, planting trees to combat climate chage, and providing opportunities to experience nature," said Joe Kane, the Land Trust's executive director. "We're working together to protect an irreplaceable legacy forever."
Kane said events like the group's auction and dinner on April 1 "are critical" to the organization's success because the money they raise "leverages grants and partnerships."