The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy protects and manages more than 5,000 acres and 30 miles of hiking paths in the Yakima Valley.
On any given day, you might see high school students participating in the conservancy’s writing workshops wandering through Snow Mountain Ranch with journals in hand; parents and children soaking up sunlight and facts about the area’s ecology during free community nature walks; or volunteers pulling invasive weed species or restoring the well-traveled trails of the shrub-steppe.
The nonprofit, established in 1985, also hosts several citizen science projects and community outreach events throughout the year, including its popular Butterfly Safari program, which highlights the diversity of more than 64 species of butterflies on the conservancy’s lands; and the annual Music and Monarchs, which celebrates the release of newly hatched and tagged butterflies as part of western monarch butterfly conservation research.
Soon the conservancy also will release the lineup for its annual winter lecture series, one more way to connect the community to nature.
Cy Philbrick, the nonprofit’s education and community outreach coordinator, said visitors make tens of thousands of trips to CCC trails each year to exercise, observe the natural world, connect with friends and family, and experience mental restoration.
The nonprofit has hosted 23 guided community walks on a variety of topics this year, from stargazing to wildflowers to geology to animal tracking, Philbrick said. The walks attracted more than 500 participants, from toddlers to grandmothers, he added.
Another core education program for the nonprofit is the Trail Talks Field Trip program at Snow Mountain Ranch for kindergarten to middle school students. The program combines interactive learning with nature walks to teach core science concepts, and also to expose students to the wonders of the natural world.
This year, the program served over 700 students from all over the Valley, Philbrick said, adding that the nonprofit reached more than 2,000 people this year alone.
“We’re constantly trying to engage new and diverse community members in our programming,” he said. “We want CCC lands and programs to be accessible and enjoyable to all.”
People can support CCC in two main ways: by becoming a supporting member and by volunteering.
“We ask that members give whatever they feel comfortable giving,” Philbrick said. “Your donation goes toward protecting and maintaining land, and toward delivering quality community programming. We also rely on our community of generous and dedicated volunteers. And we’re always looking for more volunteer help.”