An Eagle Takes Flight

By Charly Kearns | April 2016

Charly Kearns

Charly Kearns, Land Steward

A few months ago, I was contacted by a very polite young man from a local Boy Scout troop.  He introduced himself as Tristan and explained that he was looking for a location to complete his Eagle Project, a project that culminates many years of hard work and is the highest honor in the Boy Scouts.  As an Eagle Scout myself, I was excited to help another individual achieve this distinction.  Tristan told me that he was an avid fisherman and he wanted to help restore salmon habitat by organizing a tree planting event.


Tristan met me at the Land Trust’s Yelm Shoreline Nature Preserve, where I am Caretaker.  As we discussed logistics, Tristan revealed that five years earlier he had come to that same site as a student with the Nisqually River Education Project to help with the property’s very first restoration event.  This experience had a lasting effect on him and gave him the idea for his Eagle Project.  The site has had great success and phenomenal growth in subsequent years, with a few areas of patchy survival.  This seemed like a great opportunity to come full circle; Tristan would organize a planting event at the same site where he was introduced to habitat restoration.

Students planting the Yelm work site in 2010

Students planting the Yelm work site in 2010

I recommended that we diversify the restoration by adding several new species of native shrubs, as well as some additional conifers in areas of lower survival.  We agreed on the planting location, number of plants and an event date, then he headed out into the community to raise money for the plants.

Tristan and a newly planted tree

Tristan and a newly planted tree

On the day of the event, Tristan showed up with a big group of scouts and leaders.  The troop had just come back from a rainy night of camping, and everyone was cheerfully prepared to spend a rainy and muddy day planting trees.  After showing everyone how to properly plant bare root trees, I turned the event over to Tristan.  He did a wonderful job of keeping the group organized, and was constantly checking in to make sure that the trees were planted correctly.  By the end of the day we had planted all 300 trees and shrubs, with a break halfway for pizza.


Boy Scouts reporting for tree-planting duty!

This experience was very special for me.  It reminded me of all the moments in my life that have driven me towards a career in conservation.  Of course my parents were pivotal, and my experiences growing up on a small farm largely shaped my worldview.  However, my time with the Boy Scouts was also influential.  It was an outlet for my exploration of wild places, and instilled in me the self-reliance and preparedness that I prize.  It makes me very happy to see young people having these experiences and developing a deep respect for the earth.  I’m glad that Tristan will be able to look out at this rapidly growing forest, and watch it mature.  I hope that he will someday bring his grandchildren to this site and see the forest teeming with wildlife and the salmon running plentifully in the river.

The pasture after the first season of planting, January 2011

Planting area in January 2011

The pasture under restoration, February 2016

Planting area in February 2016