Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Carmelite Sisters’ property named Pend Oreille County’s ‘Washington Wildlife Farm of the Year’

the Inland Register

(From the July 29, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Carmelite Sisters' birdhouseThis is one of the many small birdhouses scattered throughout the Carmelite Sisters of Mary’s property in Pend Oreille County. The Sisters’ land was named “Washington Wildlife Farm of the Year” for the county. (IR photo from the Carmelite Sisters of Mary)

The title of Washington Wildlife Farm of the Year is awarded to the landowner who demonstrates exemplary, continuous efforts to protect, restore, or create habitat.

Look no further than the Carmelite Sisters of Mary who, 13 years ago, purchased 80 acres of high-grade forest. The land was covered with downed timber, crisscrossed with skidder trails, and featured multiple slash piles, some measuring 3,000 cubic yards.

From the first day the Sisters moved in, the land was treated as a wildlife refuge. A part of the land is used for the Sisters’ living area; the rest has been placed into a conservation easement in perpetuity.

The Carmelite Sisters of Mary are a contemplative order, meditating and reflecting in prayer for the world, but especially those in their areas. This way of life brings them closer to God and his creations.

Their desire to live in harmony with the earth and restore its natural beauty is evident in their projects and abundant wildlife found on the premises: deer, bear, elk, cougar, moose, bobcat, pileated woodpecker, birds of prey, migratory waterfowl, and many more.

To accomplish their goal of enhancing wildlife habitat while sustaining the health, beauty and productivity of the forest, the Sisters contacted local, state, and federal agencies for guidance on implementation projects to create and protect wildlife habitat zones.

Projects completed include removing excess slash, enhancing a bear wallow identified by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, owl boxes within forested areas, wood duck boxes near seasonal ponds, over 50 bird houses throughout the forest, bat boxes, small constructed slash piles for small animal habitat, food plots integrated in open spots throughout the forest, tree planting, skid road obliteration – and the list goes on.

The most remarkable feat: 98 percent of the labor is done by hand. And until last year, walking was the only way to reach each project area.

Even their tree-thinning project was conducted using horse logging to minimize the impact to the forest floor.

Going the extra mile, the Sisters have worked out an agreement with Bonneville Power Administration to care for and maintain die power line right-of-way crossing their property. Bonneville requires the removal of trees under power lines or cutting them to less than 10 feet. The Sisters have topped all these trees to meet this requirement. They have also consulted with a horticulturist on pruning these trees to develop maximum density providing permanent year-round cover and grassland habitats.

To protect the grasslands from being overrun with knapweed, the Sisters work with the Pend Oreille County Weed Board, using Larinus Minutues (knapweed seed-head-eating weevil) as a bio-control. This project’s success allows the Weed Board to spread the excess weevils to other portions of the county.

Setting goals, implementing the projects and increasing the carrying capacity of the land are reasons enough for winning this prestigious award, but throw in the fact that this land is now protected, continually under advisement from local, state, and federal agencies on habitat management, placed this nominee at the top of the list as the Washington State Wildlife Farm of the Year.

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