Bob Barnes – “We are all connected!”
When our founders sat down to come up with a name for our organization, they wanted to emphasize not just the trees, but also the people who make getting them from seeds to giants possible, the people who are working together to protect and serve planet Earth. Hence the “Nation” part of PropagationNation. It’s capitalized for a reason.
Everyone who has ever received and planted our trees, all of our founders and staff members, all of our donors, and all that are spreading word about our organization are, to us, a part of the Nation. Planting a forest is a monumental task that requires diverse and motivated networks of people.
But there is one person in particular who deserves special recognition for working behind the scenes to make so many of our goals possible.
Bob Barnes is that person.
For the last four years, many of the redwoods and sequoias that we have been able to give away have been cared for by Bob at his nursery in West Olympia. Bob does the work to grow tiny seedlings we receive from organizations like Archangel Ancient Tree Archive to much larger young trees, ready to be planted by other members of our nation.
Through his 25+ years of work as Landscape Architect for the Washington State Department of Transportation, Bob Barnes developed the “formula” for successful tree planting: remove undesirables (like Scotchbroom, Himalayan blackberry, and English ivy), apply compost and mulch, plant with good nursery stock and then provide the care that is required after you’re done planting. And since the 90’s he has been using his formula to get thousands of trees planted in the South Sound area.
Bob’s contribution does not stop with the planting though. Bob is a tree planter’s Renaissance Man. If trees need to be transported, Bob is ready with truck and trailer to move the trees to where they need to go. When it comes to network-building, Bob is superb. If we need to contact legislators for support, Bob knows who to contact. If we need to reach out to people in local government or schools, Bob already has relationships with many of them, from county commissioners to school administrators. If we need to connect with state and federal forest agencies like the WA DNR and the US Forest Service, Bob has contacts there. Conservation Districts, Salmon Enhancement Groups, Tribes, Schools – you name the organization, Bob is connected to someone in their organization to work with. So it is not surprising that Bob often ends an email with the message, “We can all be part of the solution. We are all connected!”
PropagationNation is far from the only organization benefiting from Bob’s knowledge and generosity of spirit and time. Bob has worked closely with other nonprofits like OlyEcosystems, local Eagle Scout Troops, and schoolchildren in general. Bob has said, “the more folks you can include the better because then then they all have ownership. So I always try to include the schools – kids, teachers and parents, city council people, county commissioners. Folks in different levels of the cities. It’s good to include all of those folks because they all want to be involved. And it’s better if they are because that way they’re going to be the ambassadors that are going to spread the word.”
Bob is also extremely passionate about tribal involvement in restoration work. He has said, “I’m really excited about getting the tribes involved because historically they’ve always been more land-based really. In fact, they don’t even like the concept of land ownership. That was foreign to them. They’re wonderful caretakers, and because of their life history, they’re usually located close to the mouths of the rivers. So they’re in ideal locations to get these trees established. Working with the tribes is really going to pay dividends in the long term because they have a land ethic conducive to success of the trees and also because where they’re located.”
When asked about his hopes for the State of Washington in terms of trees, Bob mentioned, “What I want to see is have these trees planted in many, many locations, and particularly close to the Salish Sea, at least the coastal redwoods… I want to see redwoods be successful and a lot of that success has to do with the formula. Getting rid of the competing vegetation, making sure the soil is correct, having really vital plants, and then making sure that they’re cared for until they’re able to take off.”
If you have ever had the privilege of being around Bob or having a conversation with him, it is very apparent that he does all of this work out of pure passion, always with a smile on his face, and an acute willingness to engage with anyone who is curious about getting involved. His energy is infectious. His skills are undeniable. And the trees stand as a solid testament to his hard work.
So Bob Barnes is forging a nation of his own. And we are humbled to be a part of it.