Manda Parrish moved to the Northwest Interior the day after graduating from the University of San Francisco in 2008. Work with the Coeur d’Alene tribe in Worley, Idaho, led her to do some conservation work.
Even though she was far from home, work was important to her. As a high school student she had worked in a botanical garden in her hometown outside of San Diego and fondly remembers spending weekends exploring the lagoons and tidal pools of this area. . At USF, she graduated in Environmental Sciences and had the chance to study Comparative Ecology and Conservation for six months in Ecuador. An opportunity that turned out to be decisive in his career.
When she arrived at Lands Council, work was underway to move nuisance beavers to areas where their ingenuity would be better appreciated and needed.
âBeavers, through the construction of dams they do to create their own habitat, create habitat for a number of other species,â Parrish explains. “It keeps the water in our landscape longer, it creates wetlands, which act as a water filtration zone. Beaver dams are also sources of forest firebreakers.”
In that first Lands Council role – “my parents loved that my business card said ‘Beaver Program Director’ for a while” – Parrish sometimes took her work home with her.
âOur first beaver rearing facility was in my backyard in the Perry district,â she says.
The beaver families waited in an enclosure in his backyard before being transferred to other areas such as the Colville National Forest.
as executive director, Parrish always takes her work home with her. One of the Lands Council’s latest projects is testing how biochar can be refined to work in the Northwest Interior.
âBiochar is improved compost – it’s organic matter burnt at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen,â Parrish explains. “It is excellent for restaurants, and it is used in agriculture because it adds a lot of organic matter to agricultural fields.”
But one of the tips is figuring out how to make biochar from biological material in eastern Washington that includes pine needles that create a lot of smoke, which can release the same greenhouse gases as biochar. is intended to sequester.
âIf we want biochar to sequester carbon, there has to be a low smoke point,â Parrish explains. “If this is on top of another problem like atmospheric carbon or air quality, it is not a useful solution.”
So in August, Parrish picked up and installed biochar ovens in his own backyard that will be used for further experimentation as the Lands Council continues to investigate the issue.
Parrish notes that many Lands Council programs start by directly addressing an issue and, through this process, help highlight barriers to progress. For example, through the beaver program, Parrish says the council was able to take what was initially just a Washington Fish and Wildlife program to move animals that bother landowners, and help pass a law to protect landowners. ‘State to use these displaced beavers as restoration agents. .
n another project, the municipality is joining forces with the City of Spokane to plant neighborhood trees in properties with landlords and tenants who are willing to help water these new plants as part of the SpoCanopy project. This fall, 160 new trees will be planted in the Logan neighborhood, and West Central has also benefited from the program, she says.
âAs in so many communities across the country, here in Spokane, low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods traditionally marked in red coincidentally have no shortage of tree cover,â Parrish said. “It has implications for environmental justice, and it means higher utility bills in the summer because you don’t have shade to cool your home.”
Plants also feature prominently in Parrish’s other role as owner of the Parrish and Grove flower and plant store in downtown Spokane, where she continues to draw on her college experiences. During her time in the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest, âI learned about tropical botany,â Parrish says. “It really made my desire to work in conservation stronger, and it’s handy to own a plant store because most houseplants are actually tropical plants.”
Likewise, his academic experience informs his work at the Lands Council. While in Ecuador, she heard from local organizers working on water conservation in the cloud forests north of Quito, and scientists working with tribes from the Amazon rainforest as they fought for protect their lands from major oil interests. Their persistence in working on complex conservation issues was inspiring.
âBeing exposed to the variety of ways communities come together to tackle these complex issues has certainly been really eye-opening,â said Parrish. âIt’s often reassuring and can help strengthen your resolve to do the right thing. ”
On Saturday, October 23, the Lands Council will host its annual Reforest Spokane Day, where volunteers will plant thousands of trees in a single day at Palisades Park. Learn more about landscouncil.org.