Puget Sound

Orca Recovery Day Collective Impact

By Allan Warren – Pierce Conservation District

The global pandemic is limiting every aspect of our day-to-day lives, including our collective ability to restore local ecosystems and critically endangered species, such as the Southern Resident Orca Whales.

As of October 2020, only 74 members of the Southern Residents remain, so pandemic or not, this work is still vital and urgent.

Washington Conservation Districts along with over 100 partners across the Pacific Northwest continue to inspire action to recover endangered Orcas through Orca Recovery Day. Now in its third year, Orca Recovery Day adapted this year to add an EcoChallenge digital platform, helping broaden and diversify engagement in the face of limitations on the number of people that can participate in-person. The EcoChallenge encouraged action in the safety of ones own home and neighborhood and highlighted the impact that everyone can have on this issue through changing our daily habits.

Photograph by Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images

Photograph by Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images

Combined, the day of restoration events and the EcoChallenge united nearly 1,700 people across 17-states and four countries to help restore ecosystems that support Orca recovery. The collective impact of this partnership resulted in nearly 6,000 trees planted, over 22-acres of habitat restored, 53,000 pounds of trash cleaned up, and dozens of other actions leading to less waste, cleaner air, and climate change mitigation.

“I loved being a part of Orca Recovery Day to help my children make the connection between the parks we trek through and the impact plants and people have on water quality,” said Marguerite, a participant in Thurston Conservation District’s event. “It was a great day of learning, adventure, hard work, and a lot of fun!”

The EcoChallenge resulted in 60-teams competing in a friendly point system to see whose collective actions could have the greatest impact. A team from South Whidbey Elementary School, LaVassar Science Period, lead the way, with 78-team members collecting litter, leading advocacy efforts, and planting over 500 trees!

“I joined this challenge to check my awareness of environmental issues in our Pacific Northwest region, and to expand my understanding,” said Sophia, an EcoChallenge participant. “Each of us contributes individual action, but community coordination is important too. I wanted to learn how to harmonize my personal efforts with those of the community.”

 Photo by Don Macanlalay / The Nature Conservancy

Special thanks is due to funding partners for Orca Recovery Day, including: the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Washington State Conservation Commission, Milgard Foundation, One Tree Planted, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, The Russell Family Foundation, Boeing, Puget Sound Energy, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy.

For More Information: Visit www.BetterGround.org/ORD to find more detailed information on Orca Recovery Day, a detailed interactive story map of the issues facing Southern Resident Orcas, and examples of things everyone can do to support recovery efforts.

Photograph by Walt Kochan

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© Kevin Arnold