SAMMI Spotlight | Environmentalists recognized for their work on the ground

Until next year’s SAMMI Award event, the Reporter will publish a new monthly series titled “SAMMI Spotlight.” Every month, we will feature one or more of the SAMMI award winners.

Jan Bird, 65, does a lot but it’s nothing she wants single credit for.

“I’m just one of many people trying to do their part,” Bird said.

Sid Gupta, 24 at the end of April, says the same thing.

But the two recently received the environmental stewardship award from the SAMMI Awards Foundation for their volunteer efforts in the community advocating and protecting the natural environment.

As part of a new series, the Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter will feature awardees once a month leading up to the next award ceremony.

Bird came to Sammamish on election day 1998, the day plateau voters declared they wanted to become a city, Redmond to the north and Issaquah to the south.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Bird took a new interest in her backyard and started down a path that led to volunteering and educating the public on native plants.

Gupta moved to Sammamish in 2010, but didn’t put his hands in the soil until 2012 when he volunteered at a community garden in the Pickering Barn in Issaquah.

“It is always nice to go out and put some plants in the ground,” Gupta said. “I don’t think anything can compare with that.”

Today, they’re involved in many of the same circles, including the Washington Native Plant Society’s native plant stewardship program.

“As Native Plant Stewards [sic] have become more involved in community-based projects, the demand for native plant experts and skills in restoration ecology has grown,” according to the statement in Gupta’s SAMMI bio. “Today trained teams of Native Plant Stewards are sought as volunteer community leaders to plan and oversee public projects in many local communities.”

The stewardship program certifies volunteers with free training, which they pay back by volunteering 100 hours to a project.

When Bird first became a native plant steward, there wasn’t an Eastside group. She helped create one.

She was also part of the initial group to certify the city of Sammamish as a Community Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation program. At the time, in 2011, Sammamish was the 12th city in Washington and 51st in the country to do so, according to her SAMMI bio.

The program allows groups to create and certify property owners’ backyards as a wildlife habitat.

“This is one of the most beautiful places and I want to keep it,” Bird said.

After becoming a steward, Gupta worked with the city of Sammamish and created a restoration project at Ebright Creek to remove invasive blackberries and replace them with native species.

Sid Gupta (left) stands with volunteers at Ebright Creek Park in 2015. — Photo courtesy of Sid Gupta

“We’ve been able to do a lot of work thanks to the community,” he said of the Ebright Creek Park restoration work.

He met long-standing stewards there who encouraged him to become involved on the Sammamish Parks and Recreation Commission, he said.

He’s also put in a lot of time with the city planting 2,500 plants in the Lower Commons.

The two have more on their to-do lists.

For Bird, she’d like to see the city buy open spaces while they’re available. For Gupta, in his second year on the parks commission, he would like to see the city of Sammamish develop into a walkable community with eatable plants rooted along pathways.

“It would be worth the maintenance,” he said.

These are far from the only things on their minds.

Above all, their goal is to educate the city and public about the environment, restoration efforts and native plant habitats.

For more information on the Sammamish Community Wildlife Habitat program, visit

To volunteer with the city, contact volunteer coordinator Elby Jones at 425-295-0556 or

If anyone has a project in need of support or has questions regarding Sammamish Friends, contact Gupta at