Stories from the Field

Celebrating the Elwha Through Environmental Education

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Editor's Note: Thanks to the National Park Service, our national board chairman, Stephen Lockhart, had an opportunity to speak at the VIP reception following the Elwha Dam Removal Ceremony. Below is what he shared with the guests at our Olympic National Park campus.

Appreciation for the Elwha

On this historic day, which marks the beginning of the removal of the Elwha River dams, we welcomed leaders in science, education, and government to the NatureBridge campus at Olympic National Park to celebrate the Elwha.

Our longtime partnership with the National Park Service has truly allowed us to meet our mission – to connect youth to the natural world and inspire sustainable actions. As we stood there, surrounded by this beautiful environment, we reflected on what the Elwha River has given back to the students who have walked along its riverbanks. The river has connected them to the rich history of this land and with the tribal communities it has served for hundreds of years.

The Elwha River and the dam have led people of all ages on an incredible journey through time. The river and the dam educate us on the impact our actions have on the environment and they inspire us to establish a new way of thinking. The Elwha speaks to us about what we need to do to build a more sustainable future.

A new beginning

Today’s moving ceremony marks a new beginning. The river and its changing ecosystem are providing us with an unprecedented opportunity to learn.  At NatureBridge, our students will conduct bio-monitoring and other real-world science over the next several years as the river is restored. Their work will provide critical information about the restoration of the ecosystem and strong evidence for the power of student engagement in real-world science. We will expand our field science programs and work to encourage future leaders to learn from the river’s restoration and the environmental challenges it presents not only for the Elwha River and this community, but for all ecosystems and all communities. By studying the dam’s impacts and the effect of its removal, we will open a door for our students to discover that they have the power to maintain the integrity of the planet and decrease human demand on Earth’s fragile natural systems — the land, air and water that sustain all life.  

Our work here in this magical place providing our students the foundation for environmental literacy has never been more urgent. This great State of Washington is a national leader in Environmental and Sustainability Education with its Learning Standards and new Literacy Plan. NatureBridge is proud to support these efforts to make environmental education part of every student’s experience. 

The historic end of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams is our new beginning. It is our turn and our time to take pride in this magnificent National Park and to pass along its rich history. It is our time to be inspired by the dam removal and the restoration of the Elwha River and to inspire our students. We’re proud to be a part of it in partnership with Olympic National Park. We’re ready to help our students make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from our past, and chart a course for a more sustainable future.

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