Joleen Palmer honored for her work preserving salmon

Joleen Palmer is one of eight citizens statewide honored for her work in preserving salmon. - Brad Camp/Staff photo
Joleen Palmer is one of eight citizens statewide honored for her work in preserving salmon.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

KINGSTON — Joleen Palmer’s life’s work is enhancing, improving and preserving all living things in her environment.

Since 2000 Palmer’s efforts have focused on saving and restoring Pacific Northwest salmon.

On March 10, the program director for Stillwaters Environmental Center was honored for her salmon recovery dedication.

The state passed the Salmon Recovery Act in 1998. From there, 27 lead entities have coordinated efforts for salmon recovery.

More than 800 citizens participate in the Lead Entity Salmon Recovery process. Of those 800, eight individuals, including Palmer, received citizen’s awards in Olympia to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Salmon Recovery Act.

“I’m not really much for awards, personally. For me it’s always about the collective and I was quite overwhelmed, quite honored,” said Palmer, 66. “Really it’s just working to preserve the habitat we are so fortunate to have in Kitsap County.”

Palmer has supervised and trained volunteers to do monthly water quality monitoring on the Carpenter Creek estuary in Kingston. She has facilitated large projects for the estuarine salt marsh and estuary, including acquisition of land for open space, placement of large woody debris in the salt marsh and in the process, replacement of at 12-foot culvert on South Kingston Road with a 70-foot bridge. She has spent numerous hours educating the public on the health and status of Puget Sound waters and belongs to the Puget Sound Partnership. So why does she care so much for salmon?

“They are iconic. I see them as indicator species,” she said Tuesday at Stillwaters. “They have so many connections and as their numbers go down there is less for the other organisms. If they’re not very healthy then we’re not very healthy and it isn’t just about us.”

Palmer describes herself as an “agent of change.”

Her attempts to improve salmon health is just one example in a lifetime of seeking positive change.

The Colorado native graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a bachelor’s in education in 1964. She then went into the Peace Corps and spent two years in the Philippines working on an education project and acting as a liaison between the Peace Corps and the Bureau of Public Schools. She traveled the world for six months before accepting a teaching position with the Edmonds School District in 1967. She taught sixth grade for five years. Next she completed a two-year Biblical studies program and spent several years working on social justice for the Lutheran Church’s Lutheran Social Systems. She moved to Kingston in 1996 and began work with Stillwaters in 1999.

Palmer attributers her quest for beneficial change to her upbringing. Her parents owned a grocery store in the small community of Hugo, Colo., and this instilled in her a sense of “fairness and equality,” she says.

“Somehow that must have attached itself to me in a way,” Palmer said.

She also says living abroad with the Peace Corps forever altered her outlook.

“JFK’s call at that time was, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’ and I felt inspired to do what I could.”

Until she retires she’ll continue her work at Stillwaters. And even when she does retire she’ll keep striving for change.

“I do see a time when I can’t keep up on everything here, but I will want to continue to do a few things,” she said.

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