Restoring WA’s urban environment, one green space at a time

For 24 years running, Washington Conservation Voters has hosted its Annual Breakfast of Champions to celebrate environmental leaders in the community, including ten young leaders under 30. This year, we’re proud to share that Carter Case, UW Environmental Studies alum will be recognized at the Breakfast for his work in habitat restoration and political advocacy.

Carter Case at a Divest UW rally.
Carter Case.

Carter Case, class of 2014

Carter Case grew up in Mill Creek, WA and spent a lot of his childhood outdoors. He recalls salvaging young trees and ferns from construction sites near his childhood home before they were leveled to make room for new homes. From a young age he had a strong passion for preserving natural spaces.

At UW, Carter initially thought environmental engineering was the better choice to work towards environmental solutions, but he sought big picture knowledge of environmental issues and gravitated towards Program on the Environment. As an Environmental Studies major, he chose courses that focused on environmental education and environmental policy.

Passion never rests

While a student at UW, Carter cites his involvement with Divest UW as his first peek into the advocacy world. Along with other students, he worked to push the Board of Regents to divest from coal in the endowment fund (which they did), and now the campaign is continuing to push for full divestment of fossil fuels.

“I learned that organizing is a powerful tool for creating social change, especially when done in the right ways, bringing in new people and ideas.”

It wasn’t until his Capstone work that Carter discovered a passion for habitat restoration. He had volunteered for EarthCorps events but interning with Friends of Lincoln Park gave him real experience; he evaluated and revitalized a 1,200 square foot plot of forest which included identifying and removing invasive species, planting native plants that were fit for the natural habitat, and investigating community barriers to volunteering for urban restoration efforts.

“There is so much work that needs to be done to have functioning ecosystems, safe water access, sustainable agriculture. If we don’t take steps to mitigate and adapt to these conditions, the result will be more fractured habitat and human suffering,” says Carter when asked why environmental work is important to him.

Leading change in WA State

Carter Case
Carter at work phone-banking for Carbon Washington.

Carter’s Capstone site supervisor, Sharon Baker encouraged Carter to apply for Washington Conservation Corps, a one year AmeriCorps program that would enable him to further pursue his passion. He applied and got in, working on invasive species control, trail construction, and planting of native trees and shrubs.

Building off these efforts, Carter then joined Carbon Washington as a member of their Steering Committee. He volunteered to help build capacity and collect enough signatures to qualify Initiative 732 for the ballot (I-732 will be on the ballot this November). Carter is proud of this work because of the potential for good and the realization that concerned citizens can come together to act promptly and affect clean energy policy.

Today, Carter works for Garden Cycles, focusing on private yard and city park restoration. The company’s current goals include planting 13,000 native species and helping to restore 75 city park acres. Carter came upon this opportunity through maintaining ties to his Capstone supervisor, Sharon Baker. He notes, “the Capstone has led to all my future employment thus far.”

Carter’s new skills as a community organizer led him to appreciate and embrace restoration as a tangible way to preserve the environment. His personal ethos compels him to continue work in the environmental field:

“I can’t fix everything so I decided to focus locally and see my impact. Being on the ground, cutting blackberries, stabilizing slopes, talking with the community about ways to be stewards of their land, planting trees…there is always a chance for education. This is where I need to be.”

In his spare time, Carter is also involved with the Washington Native Plant Society, working with their conservation committee to run additional campaigns to protect natural space and better regulate noxious plants to ensure less habitat damage.

Carter wants to stay engaged in local politics, through various campaigns. “Who knows, maybe I’ll run for local office one day! There are a lot of changes to be made – local is where we can move the dial.”

Carter will be honored at WCV’s Breakfast of Champions tomorrow, Oct. 11 2016, where Senator Patty Murray, Governor Jay Inslee and Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew II will provide remarks.