What's this land trust thing all about?

by Jaime Jovanovich-Walker, Community Outreach Coordinator

I get asked a lot about the work that is done at the Land Trust, specifically, what do we actually do here?  The basic answer is that we help landowners conserve the lands that are vital to the health and well-being of our community. 

Which is totally true.  And worthy and wonderful and the soul of our work.  But what's also true is that I learn something new each and every day about the lands that sustain and define us, things I can't wait to share with our community.  I learn about hidden treasures on the properties we help steward.  I learned the other day, for instance, that crane fly larva breathe through their butts.  

  The "majestic" crane fly larva

The "majestic" crane fly larva

Yep, you read the right.  Through THEIR BUTTS.  The larva live in water or other moist environments as they feed and develop.  Their heads are busy searching for food in the debris and detritus at the bottom of waterways, while their... other ends poke from the water to allow them to breathe through anal gills (you definitely read that one right). 

These strange creatures eventually mature into the crane fly, or "Skeeter Eaters," as they are commonly called, although these harmless flies cannot physically eat anything, let alone a mosquito.  Their adult mouths are purely vestigial!  Mind=blown.

And trust me, I'm not the only one learning about and immersing myself in amazing natural wonders across our properties.  Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of sharing Idler's Rest Nature Preserve with professionals from the Idaho Recreation and Parks Association on a guided hike.  We spotted signs of wildlife, the first wildflowers of the season (Springbeauty and Glacier Lilies), and enjoyed an in-depth discussion of the dangers of eating too many plums from the orchard when they are in season.  Critical information, believe me.  

PLT Board members and volunteers from the WSU Center for Civic Engagement spent an afternoon at Idler's Rest helping install new wildlife-friendly fencing along the northern boundary of the preserve. It was a first glimpse at Idler's Rest for these volunteers, and I'm pretty confident they were hooked on the magic of the place immediately. 

  That there is one heck of a fine fence, if I do say so myself.

That there is one heck of a fine fence, if I do say so myself.

And the workout benefits, too, of course.  I was informed that you can "totally get swole digging fence holes," which I at first assumed was some sort of pastry, but later Googled to discover that no, it was not indeed a delicious treat, but some young, hip way to talk about working out. Hear ye, hear ye, come get swole at Idler's Rest - new tagline?

We're also looking very much forward to bringing our second grade pals from McDonald Elementary School to visit the Fosberg Easement, just a few blocks from their school.  In what can only be described as a slightly organized recess, we'll be exploring the stream, petting the horse, and frolicking around the outside of the Palouse Prairie restoration planting.  I'm never sure how much of the biological, entomological, or riparian zone content they will retain, but I know darn well that an hour spent in nature's classroom tops any indoor activity.  PERIOD.  

And nature's classroom certainly isn't just for the littles.  Our nature preserves and other conserved properties make for ideal research sites for everything from entomology to aquatic biology to forestry.  This spring and summer, we'll be helping secure study sites for research on movement of agricultural pests between crop and natural areas, and just last weekend Nick partnered with the University of Idaho Sustainability Center to lead a special tour of the Dave Skinner Ecological Preserve, a first glimpse of Native Palouse Prairie for many of the attendees.  

So this Land Trust thing... it's not just a job, and it isn't just about the lands we help preserve.  It's my classroom, my family, my inspiration, my connection, my community, my laughter, and my joy.  And it's where I get to learn about insects that breathe through their butts.  #Winning.