North Cascades Institute
While pursuing his graduate degree in biology at Western Washington University Saul Weisberg worked as a climbing ranger in the North Cascades National Park. As a ranger, Weisberg discovered the beauty of the park so many were still unaware of. In 1986, Weisberg co-founded the North Cascades Institute with a mission to provide education to all in order to promote conservation and stewardship in the North Cascades. Today, the park is still one of the least visited national parks, yet it houses one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, said Christian Martin, NCI marketing and communications manager. “Everyone living in this [region] has this amazing ecosystem in their backyards that is so primitive. There are even wolves returning here,” Martin said.
The institute’s main mission is to conserve the North Cascades, but instead of acting through litigation or politics, the nonprofit has chosen education as their route for change. “Taking people outdoors is pretty non-controversial. Most people can get behind education,” Martin said. Through a wide array of classes and programs, the institute aims to help develop a meaningful connection between the visitors and the wilderness around them, Martin said.
While the institute operated for more than 25 years without a home base, in 2006 it partnered with the City of Seattle and the National Park Service to open the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. The center, located on the banks of Diablo Lake, has lodging for 92 visitors, a lakeside dining hall, dock, classrooms, and more. Participants can sign up for overnight programs based out of the learning center, or swing by on the way to a nearby trail in the North Cascades National Park. From the Mountain School program for fifth-grade classes, to Huxley College of the Environment’s integrated Masters in Education degree, the learning center educates all ages.
The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center wraps up most of the classes that are open to public at the end of October, but is open year-round. On October 21st and 22nd, the learning center hosts the annual harvest dinner to celebrate the beginning of fall. The feast will feature a meal prepared with local ingredients and beverages. Registration is open online.