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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Polly Dyer's 90th Birthday Bash

Well over two hundred people gathered at The Mountaineers clubhouse at Sand Point on Saturday February 13th to celebrate Polly Dyer's 90th birthday. Over the course of about three hours many people shared their memories of and stories about some of the multitudinous conservation battles that Polly has been at the center of for well over half a century.

Even a succession of speakers over three hours were barely able to scratch the surface as far as relating Polly's remarkable history, and her encouraging effects on those around her. One after another, people talked about how Polly had managed to pull off one or another conservation coup, many of which had been regarded as impossible dreams until Polly came along.

Polly has always had the gift for quietly transforming things once thought impossible into things not only possible, but real. All across the landscape of the Northwest, place after place now colored dark green on the maps got that way because of Polly. It's hard to think of anyone else who has played more of a role in protecting more places than Polly. For longer than many of the people in that room on Saturday have been alive, wherever there has been a conservation gathering, you have been able to count on seeing the "Marmot" license plate parked outside somewhere.

Polly's onetime employer at the U. W.'s Institute for Environmental Studies, Gordon Orians, related how Polly, as one of his most productive full time employees, seemed to accomplish more, not just when at work but also when away, than anyone he had ever known, something he could not scientifically explain. His only hypothesis was that Polly was actually a set of twins, or more likely, triplets, since she seemed to be everywhere and do everything. He is still pondering the mystery.

It's probably fair to say that everyone in the room had one, or many, Polly stories that could have been told. Tim McNulty of Olympic Park Associates related how as a young apprentice tree hugger, he once followed Polly through corridor after corridor, and down into labyrinthine subterranean passages somewhere far below the U.S. Capitol, finally winding up in the staff room for one of the Congressional Interior committees. Everyone there knew and respected Polly. McNulty went on to learn that one of the more powerful weapons at his disposal when things weren't going well politically was to simply say, "you know, I don't think Polly would like that...." after which, more often than not, things would start looking better.

The passage of years hasn't slowed Polly down one bit. Polly is continuing to take on tasks that would wear out people half her age. The bio-diesel powered car with the "Marmot" plates can be seen in place after place. Wherever there is important conservation work being done in Washington state, there you will find Polly Dyer.

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