News from Benj and Sara

The Economics of Estuary for Orion magazine

Posted 28 September 2010 by in Photography

Should nature have a price? In June I received an assignment from Orion to shoot a feature by Ginger Strand on the economics of estuary restoration efforts along the lower Skagit River. There were three key characters in this story: the farmers, who had been tilling the Valley’s fertile soil since their great grandparents built the first dikes generations ago; the Swinomish and other Skagit tribes, who champion the restoration of critical salmon habitat; and the local staff of The Nature Conservancy, who have carefully built bridges within the community through a number of groundbreaking projects. One such initiative, Farming for Wildlife, pays farmers to flood fallow fields to provide critical wetland habitat. It’s a success story, but progress isn’t cheap.

Due to a complicated maze of dikes and farmland, much of the estuary habitat is inaccessible from the ground and difficult to appreciate visually. Lighthawk, an organization that supports environmental initiatives with mission-based flights, connected me with a volunteer pilot willing to fly the delta. With perfect, thinly overcast light I was not only able to shoot images for Orion, but also for the Seattle office of the Nature Conservancy and a new story for Facing Climate Change. A huge thanks to Kevin Morse from the Nature Conservancy, Brian Cladoosby from the Swinomish Tribe, and to pilot Linda Chism and her restored Piper Super Cub. I can’t wait to fly with her again!

You can find The Economics of Estuary in the September/October issue of Orion or browse an expanded gallery of 20 images here.

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