Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Those aren’t weeds - they’re pollinator habitat

By Barbara LaBoe

If you drove our highways this summer and early fall you likely got a first-hand glimpse at our pollinator-friendly mowing and planting policy – though it may be hard to recognize at first glance.
Signs like this at the Scatter Creek Safety Rest Area north of Centralia help explain our shift in mowing and planting to better support pollinators. In the next few years, this area will return to a more natural meadow instead of being mowed.

About two years ago, we reduced the amount of mowing and weed removal in our wider right of ways to allow a more natural, meadow-like look to return. It's called integrated vegetation management and includes planting more native plants and using plants with staggered blooming seasons. This approach helps pollinators – animals and insects that transfer pollen from plant to plant – by providing more sources of nectar, pollen, larval host plants and nesting locations. (We still mow directly alongside roadways and other areas to maintain safe sightlines).

Pollinators are crucial to plant reproduction and help support our state's $49 billion agricultural and food industry. In addition, reduced mowing helps save money (about $1 million annually) and reduces our carbon emissions (by 40 metric tons a year), which helps both human and pollinators alike breathe a little easier.
The milkweed seen growing in the median along I-82 near Prosser used to be mowed, but now we're leaving it in place to provide habitat for monarch butterflies. This new mowing policy helps support important pollinators across our state.

So, what does this new approach look like? Here are two examples:
  • Milkweed along Interstate 82 through the Yakima Valley and Interstate 90 through the Ellensburg Valley. In years past, we saw it as just a weed and removed it. But now we know it's excellent food for Monarch butterflies. In just two years of reduced mowing a vibrant pollinator habitat has sprung up along the roadside.
  • Fields in and around the Scatter Creek Safety Rest Area north of Centralia on Interstate 5. While it used to be mowed regularly, we're now letting native plants return. The emerging meadow helps provide pollinator habitat for honey bees and other native pollinators unique to the local ecosystem. Interpretive signs installed this summer help explain the ultimate goal and let travelers know to watch for signs of change during the next few years.
We know some areas may look neglected while they transition from manicured to meadow-like, but what you're really seeing is our efforts to do our share and help improve the environment. So the next time you see some "weeds" along a roadway, look again, you might just see some butterflies or bees as well.
Allowing pollinator-friendly plants in our right of ways help support pollinators like this bee, which in turn help support our state's $49 billion agricultural and food industry. The policy also saves money and reduces carbon emissions.

Friday, October 6, 2017

See your best ferry pic on our winter schedule cover

By Justin Fujioka

We've all experienced those moments where you just need to take a photo. Many times, those moments are scenic. That's why we're pretty sure most locals and visitors to Western Washington have a picture or two of at least one of our ferries.
Well, it's time to look in your albums or snap a fresh image because we're having a #FerryFotoContest on Twitter! We want a fantastic image to be on the cover of our printed Winter 2018 Sailing Schedule. It's your chance for thousands of people to see your best ferry shot!
How to submit a photo
All you have to do is follow @wsferries on Twitter, then Tweet your picture between noon Monday, Oct. 9, and noon Monday, Oct. 16. Be sure to include the hashtag #FerryFotoContest.

Photo requirements and contest rules
We're not looking for just any old image of a ferry. We want something unique, striking and interesting. You may want to include a city skyline, mountains, passengers, or if you're lucky, wildlife. Here are a few other things to note:
  • Your photo:
    • Must include at least one vessel in the Washington State Ferries system (in full or partial).
    • Will be printed in black and white, so consider how that will look.
    • Must have been taken yourself and you have the rights to submit it to this contest.
    • May have been taken at any time.
  • Do not break any laws or do anything unsafe in order to snap a shot. If you are on a ferry please steer clear of restricted areas, and if driving, please no photographing or Tweeting.
  • Do not Tweet a link to an image that has been uploaded to another site. 
  • Do not send your photo via direct message on Twitter.
  • You may submit up to three pictures. If you Tweet more than three, we will only consider the first three shared.
  • You will retain rights to your photograph, however our five finalists must agree to grant us rights to use their snapshots for marketing and communication purposes, which will include photo credit. We will never sell your picture.

Your photo will be displayed in black & white on our cover so consider that when submitting your entry.

Selecting a winner
A panel of judges will select five finalists based on originality, technicality, composition, artistic merit and overall impact. The decision of the panel is subjective, final and cannot be appealed.

The finalists' pictures will be posted on the @wsferries Twitter page on Friday, Oct. 20. The image with the most "likes" at noon Monday, Oct. 30, will be named the winner. And we're pretty sure whoever that person is will have another one of those photo-worthy moments once we release our Winter 2018 Sailing Schedule brochure in December!