Coronavirus Response

At a Glance

  • All Institute programs — including Mountain School, Forest School, adult classes and conferences — are cancelled through May 2020.
  • The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center campus is closed to the public, as are visitor facilities and campgrounds in North Cascades National Park.
  • Beginning April 1, our staff will be working reduced hours and our administrative "office" will be closed Fridays-Sundays. We will respond to voicemails and emails left during this time on Mondays. Thank you for your patience.

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A Message from our Executive Director

March 19, 2020 * Spring Equinox

We are paddling into uncharted waters, but we are not alone.

First and foremost, our hearts go out to anyone who has been impacted by the virus. We are grateful to everyone working on the front lines  to care for people in need, whether it is helping your neighbors, delivering food or working in health care. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

At North Cascades Institute, we are focused on the health and safety of our staff, students and community.  The Environmental Learning Center will be closed to the public and we are cancelling all programs, events, conferences and retreats through the end of May. This includes Mountain School, Forest School, Base Camp, adult classes, conferences and our Spring Dinner.

Everyone who was registered for programs through May is eligible for a full refund. You may choose to transfer your registration fee into a credit for a future program or a donation – your generous support will mean a lot to our organization in these challenging times.

Institute leadership has been meeting every day to understand and manage this crisis as it evolves and impacts our staff, programs, budget and operations.  We are staying in close communication with our school, agency and other partners to understand the challenges they face, and how their decisions impact the Institute. We’ve developed contingency plans for bad-, and worst-case scenarios. We make decisions every morning that are obsolete by the afternoon, and we keep going.

We are all looking for ways to keep our Learning Center and Sedro-Woolley teams safe, informed and engaged while working from home as much as possible. Many job duties are changing in order to keep people working productively on Institute priorities in a time of school closures and the absence of students and other participants. We’re practicing the new dance of social distancing to flatten the curve– while keeping our spirits up.

We decided early on to keep all staff employed full-time through the end of this month and provide additional sick leave to help those in need. We will begin furloughs and significant reduction in our work hours on April 1. We are exploring letting staff live rent-free in spaces they currently occupy if they have no place else to go.

Our work has never been more important, or faced such challenges (“School closures empty Washington's outdoor classrooms” —Seattle P-I). We’re all here because we love getting kids outside to fall in love with nature. How can we implement our mission when our program models are changing? What can we do differently? What can we do that we haven’t thought of before? There are no simple or easy answers. We need to be nimble and look for new ways of doing nearly everything.

I am grateful to be part of such a creative, smart and compassionate community – we’re going to take care of each other as best we can while continuing to work towards our vital mission.

We are in this together. It’s good to remember – and well documented in the medical literature – that immersion in nature boosts human immune systems and provides many other health benefits. Go outside. Rejoice in the spring flowers and the swallow’s return.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant impact to North Cascades Institute, all of us who work here and everyone we serve. The uncertainty and rate of change is exhausting. It impacts every one of us directly, and differently. Our response, as a community, will define who we are as people, not just as an organization. Thank you for being a part of us.

If you have any questions, please contact our front desk at (360) 854-2599 or at Our staff are working remotely so please be patient for a response.

If you’d like to make a donation to help us weather this crisis, please visit

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Suggested resources:

Facts about novel coronavirus and how to prevent COVID-19

Coronavirus: Facts and Precautions for Schools and Outdoor Programs 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades 

Whatcom County Health District

Departamento de Salud del Condado de Whatcom