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Conserving wildlife habitat, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations.

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Volunteer Spotlight - Paul Johnson

By: Hannah Swartos, Stewardship Intern

At the finish of February’s first work party, Land Trust staff wave goodbye to volunteers and begin gathering tools and leftover roots from the day’s planting at Samish Flower Farm. Paul Johnson rounds the clearing’s corner, a clump of willow stakes in his hand. It is past noon, but he asks if he can finish planting the dozen or so stakes that remain. Anything not planted today will have to be finished later, and the SLT staff still has about half an hour of cleaning and re-packing to do, so he trudges back through the afternoon sun to the flooded marsh.

This is typical of Paul. He often lingers, to finish the task at hand, to chat with staff as the day wraps up, or to hike around the property with a camera in hand. It’s nice to see this slow, appreciative approach to a work party that leaves room for admiration and enjoyment. To steward these properties is to tend to them, yes, but also to love them.

Paul Johnson helping maintain trails at Guemes Mountain.
Paul Johnson helping maintain trails at Guemes Mountain.

Paul and his family moved to Washington 32 years ago from Northern Minnesota, following job placements and falling quickly for the landscape of Skagit Valley.

“Skagit Valley is the best of the best,” he says, “It’s rural if you want it to be. If I want snow I am an hour and a half from Baker. If I want the big city I’m an hour and a half from Seattle or Vancouver.”

As he reached retirement, Paul’s wife, an avid and skilled gardener, prompted him to find a local activity or cause to be involved with. He signed up for a watershed master's class with the Skagit Conservation District, where he met many friendly volunteers, outdoor enthusiasts, and members of Skagit Land Trust.

“I realized how much of my backyard I hadn’t seen,” he shares. Since that first class, Paul has enjoyed spending his Saturdays “getting out and getting muddy,” as he becomes more and more acquainted with Skagit Valley. He mentions that he learns something new at every work party, having been most surprised to learn that a key part of the salmon life cycle, spawning, happens not in the midst of the main rivers, but in unassuming gravel beds and side creeks. “All these places I thought were just swamps,” he marvels, “there’s so much life in there.”

When asked to name a favorite Skagit Land Trust property, Paul answers immediately: he couldn’t possibly choose. He is happy enough to pay tribute to each, sharing work and conversation with other volunteers and enjoying the chance to experience all that Skagit Valley has to offer.

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