Conservation Corner

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Dec 08

Despite COVID-19, Communities Across the Region Are Still Working to Recover Endangered Orca Whales

Posted on December 8, 2020 at 12:47 PM by Allan Warren

Whidbey Island CD
Conservation Districts and over 100 partner organizations inspired people to action across 17-states and four countries as part of Orca Recovery Day this year. With in-person events limited by the pandemic, partners launched an EcoChallenge platform to encourage actions in their own homes and neighborhoods. Above: Volunteers with Whidbey Island Conservation District help at a restoration event.

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 it’s 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 peopleDuwamish River Cleanup Coalition 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.

Right: Volunteers with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition participate in a kayak trash cleanup, removing some of the over 53,000lbs of trash cleaned from local waterways.

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!”

Check out the full EcoChallenge report and reflections here.

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!Clear Creek Task Force

"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."

Right: Volunteers help plant trees as part of the Clear Creek Task Forces' riparian restoration event. Nearly 6,000 trees were planted on Orca Recovery Day this year.

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 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.


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