North Cascades Institute

Nature's classroom
J. M.

SEDRO WOOLLEY, WA. Saul Weisberg watches the sun slip behind Pyramid Peak in Washington's North Cascades National Park. "This is our neighborhood," he says, "and our classroom."

Weisberg is executive director of North Cascades Institute. (He's pictured between the institute's Don Burgess and Tracie Johannessen.) It was begun in 1986 by five friends who shared natural history backgrounds and who wanted to promote conservation without creating an advocacy organization. "We keep the focus on education," says Weisberg, "because we know that with more information, people make better decisions."

The institute now reaches about 10,000 people a year — students who will wade streams and traverse glaciers as part of programs that range from botany to Native American crafts. Some programs have a public face. For example, the institute's Mountain Stewards coach national forest visitors on the fine points of low-impact recreation and camping.

Set to open in fall 2003 is the $14.5 million North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Built almost entirely from local, sustainably harvested materials, it will include a classroom, a library, and other facilities. But, as always, the real learning will take place outside.

North Cascades Institute, (360) 856-5700 ext. 209. Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, Box 1424, Helena, MT 59624; (406) 459-3486.