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Join us for Orca Recovery Month 2023!

Each year, the San Juan Islands Conservation District joins 45 other organizations across the Pacific Northwest in October to host outdoor activities enabling people to take action. Orca Recovery Month, or Ora-tober, is an intentional month of action to restore habitat, reduce stormwater pollution, and educate the public about things they can do everyday to help one of the most iconic species of the Pacific Northwest.

2023 Events 

“Orca-tober” events will be ongoing throughout October in the San Juan Islands! Please note that all events, with the exception of the Southern Resident Orca Community Coffee Roundtable, require advanced registration


Garry Oak Work Party with San Juan Preservation Trust, Oct 11, 11am - 3pm @ Shooting Star Meadow Preserve

Join the San Juan Preservation Trust on October 11th from 11am to 3pm for a day of weeding and general tree care in a young grove of Garry oaks at one of their newer preserves, the Shooting Star Meadow on San Juan Island. They will dedicate some time to discuss and contemplate the upland effects of water processes that end up in the Salish Sea and beyond and how orca whales and other marine life navigate changing environments, all as a part of Orca Recovery Month. Please register for this free event, here:


Forest Health Walk with San Juan Islands Conservation District, Oct 12, 1-3pm @ English Camp

Join Cathi Winings, Forestry Natural Resource Planner, from the San Juan Islands Conservation District from 1-3pm on Thursday, October 12 for a forest health walk at English Camp. Learn about what a healthy forest in San Juan County looks like, and how to manage your own forest to improve its condition. We will also discuss the connection between forests, salmon, and orcas in the Pacific Northwest. Please email Julie Curtis to register for the free event.

Soil Biology and Composting Workshop for Commercial Growers: Oct 14, 9am-1pm @ Saturn's Return-- Farm & Inn

Did you know that soil health impacts water processes that can affect orca whales and other marine life? Join Saturn's Return — Farm & Inn and GroundWork Soil Lab for an exciting in-person event in Friday Harbor. This workshop is specially designed for commercial growers in the San Juan Islands who want to enhance their knowledge of soil biology and composting. Discover the secrets of nurturing healthy soil and learn effective composting techniques from industry experts. Gain valuable insights, practical tips, and hands-on experience to boost your crop resiliency, reduce inputs, and build a water resilient landscape. Please register for this $50 event, here:


Southern Resident Orca Community Coffee Roundtable, Oct 14, 9-11am @ San Juan Island Grange

Take part in Orca Recovery Day on October 14, 2023, from 9:00am - 11:00am showcasing the interconnected efforts to recover the endangered Southern Resident Orca. Join Representative Debra Lekanoff, San Juan County, and the MRC as they celebrate Orca Recovery Day with scientists and policy experts working at the local, state, and federal levels to share our collective recovery efforts for the endangered Southern Resident Orca.This free event will be held at the San Juan Island Grange in Friday Harbor, however there is a virtual option for attendees who are not able to make it in person. No registration required, but more event details and the Zoom link can be found here:

Islands Conservation Corps Open House: Oct 14, 2-7pm @ Mt. Grant Preserve & San Juan Island Brewery

You are invited to an "open house" of Island Conservation Corps’ work this year on Mt Grant Preserve, followed by a presentation at San Juan Island Brewery. The Islands Conservation Corps  is a hybrid field and academic ecological restoration program in the San Juan Islands that serves as a partnership between Western Washington University and the San Juan Islands Conservation District. The event is being hosted by Western Washington University Alumni Foundation. WWU Alumni encouraged to attend but is open to all! Please register for this free event, here:

2021 Events 

SJICD held a free mini speaker series with 3 local speakers; highlighting orca, salmon, and eelgrass recovery efforts in the San Juan Islands.

Check out our speakers from 2021: 

Dr. Deborah Giles, Research Director, Wild Orca and Whale Researcher, Univ. of Washington

Dr. Deborah Giles is an expert on the Southern Resident killer whales. Starting as a research assistant in 2005, then the subject of her graduate studies and her entire professional career since receiving her PhD, making Giles one of the few scientists to have focused almost exclusively on this iconic population. Giles serves as the Science & Research Director for Wild Orca, and as a Research Scientist at the University of Washington—monitoring the Southern Resident killer whales’ health through non-invasive sampling with Eba, her highly-trained poop detection dog.

Giles collaborates with government scientists and other researchers to enhance understanding of the many impacts on these endangered whales from overfishing, pollution and noise. She represents their interests with policymakers, and is frequently interviewed by print and broadcast media as one of the principal voices calling for the recovery of these endangered orcas.

Amy Trainer, Environmental Policy Director, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

Amy Trainer serves as the Environmental Policy Director for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community where she provides technical and policy advice to the Tribe’s Senate, and works on a variety of local, state, federal, tribal and international fisheries and habitat policy matters. She is an appointed Commissioner on the international Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission, and is an affiliate member of the Skagit Climate Science Consortium.

From 2010-2015 Amy served as the executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin where she championed the congressional wilderness designation of Drakes Estero, the ecological heart of Point Reyes National Seashore and only marine wilderness area on the West Coast. She has led statewide coastal protection advocacy efforts in the California Legislature, including the addition of civil rights and environmental justice language to the California Coastal Protection Act on its 40th Anniversary in 2016.

Amy is a former practicing land use and environmental lawyer who helped redevelop the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri, served as a non-profit staff attorney in Friday Harbor where she protected endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, and as a special advisor to the Makah Indian Tribe of Neah Bay where she was instrumental in establishing the Makah Tribal Office of Marine Affairs. As a land trust executive director in Colorado, she conserved hundreds of acres of land and senior water rights and received an award for implementing sustainable ranching practices. Amy is grateful for the opportunity to bring her passion for protecting wildlands, Killer Whales, the Skagit River and the homelands of the Coast Salish people.


To learn more, visit:

"Restoring damaged and declining eelgrass in the San Juan Archipelago:

a pioneering program using seeds" Dr. S. Wyllie-Echeverria, Yuki Wilmerding, Isabella Brown and Mike Ramsey (Seagrass Lab Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington)

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is a foundational species in the Salish Sea. Thriving meadows of these flowering plants provide shelter, spawning and foraging sites and food for invertebrates, fish, and waterfowl in the nearshore region. Like other flowering plants, eelgrass, after pollination, fertilization, and seed development, disperses a yearly seed rain. In addition to dropping within existing patches, seeds can also be carried by ocean currents to distant sites and if conditions are suitable seedlings will sprout and new patches will form. Recognizing the value of seed development and dispersal as a restorative technique, scientists throughout the range of eelgrass in the Northern Hemisphere began designing programs to restore damaged and declining eelgrass sites with seeds.

In the summer of 2020, we launched a program to restore eelgrass in the nearshore region of Bell Point in Garrison Bay. The objective of this work is to pioneer an effort to restore declining eelgrass meadows in the San Juan Archipelago.

In this presentation we will share the first steps in this program which include defining the timing of peak seed release, designing of a culture system which allows the capture of ripe seeds and experimenting with techniques designed to deliver seeds to our restoration site.

Planting on Orcas Island

The San Juan County Land Bank and San Juan Islands Conservation District teamed up to plant Garry oak acorns and native prairie forbs on Turtleback Mountain Preserve. Together, we planted over 900 plants in 2021!

How does planting trees help our Southern Resident orcas? Although this event seeks to raise awareness about this incredible endangered species, it also highlights the critical ecological connections between land and sea, and the importance of supporting natural systems.

This event was sponsored by One Tree Planted and Promise the Pod.

Visit to learn more about Orca Recovery Day and other events that will be happening throughout Western Washington.

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