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WA Plans Weekend of Family-Friendly Conservation

September 22, 2011

TACOMA, Wash. - Hundreds of Washington residents will pull on their gloves and lace up their work boots this weekend and show up at dozens of National Public Lands Day projects on Saturday. For those who have a favorite lake, trail, park or campsite, it is a chance to make improvements that state or federal agencies may have had to put off for budget reasons.

In the Yacolt Burn State Forest, Saturday is "Pick Up the Burn" day. Nick Cronquist, outreach and volunteer coordinator with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, says in addition to litter cleanup, it's a chance to get people talking and working together.

"For the last few years, we've had user groups from the motorized community - the 4-by-4 and ATV groups - mingling with non-motorized groups, and all coming out for the best benefit of the forest. They're just cleaning up and making it a better place."

National Public Lands Day isn't just for parks or wilderness. Some cities are also launching day-long community cleanups. Tacoma has at least a dozen projects, and for those ready to tackle invasive plants like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry, this is the place to be.

Kory Kramer, South Sound "Green Cities" program manager with the Cascade Land Institute, says every volunteer hour is needed.

"It's such a large task that city agencies - here in Tacoma, for example, Metro Parks - literally don't have enough budget to keep these open spaces healthy. There's no way that we could get this work done if we had to rely only on paid workers."

Near Walla Walla, volunteers helped build a new trail at Bennington Lake this summer. On Saturday, they will landscape it. Chris Alford, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bennington Lake park ranger, says the agency has had to rely more heavily on volunteers, and so far, there's been no shortage of people who want to pitch in.

"It's a great chance for folks to get involved with what's going on, on their public lands, and make them better. It's a great chance to built that community-type relationship with visitors, which has helped really get people involved with taking care of their public land."

For most of the Public Lands Day projects, volunteers can just show up, although some of the organizers would appreciate knowing how many to expect. The times, locations and details for all events are listed online at www.PublicLandsDay.org. (Click on "Washington" on the map.)

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA