Pacific Rim Institute welcomes new director

Months after Robert Pelant left PRI, Forrest Inslee was chosen to lead the nonprofit.

Four months after Robert Pelant left the Pacific Rim Institute on Dec. 29, the nonprofit chose Forrest Inslee to lead the mission to restore native habitats in the Puget Sound area.

Inslee, who is also the cousin of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, became the executive director in April, but had previously worked with the institute back when he worked with the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies.

The Au Sable Institute, which was based in Michigan, had established a second campus at Camp Casey in 1997, later selling 175 acres of land to the Pacific Rim Institute which Pelant founded to save the prairies from development.

Inslee lives in Edmonds and splits his time between the Pacific Rim Institute and Circlewood, a community of people on Camano Island that seeks to live in better harmony with people, the earth and faith.

Over the years, the Pacific Rim Institute has had many successes. In particular, in 2023, the institute’s contributions helped remove the golden paintbrush from the Endangered Species Act’s list.

While this was a great accomplishment, Inslee and his team are already looking at other species to remove from that list, such as Taylor’s checkerspot, a species that risks going extinct due to severe weather events and invasive species.

The good news, Inslee said, is that the golden paintbrush — which the institute has in abundance — is one of the butterfly’s main food sources.

The Pacific Rim Institute is currently working with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and the Navy to put most of the 175 acres of land into a conservation easement in 2025, which would protect the prairies from future development.

The institute is also thinking of creating more opportunities for youth, such as ecological restoration internships, which according to Inslee might become a reality this fall.

In May, the Pacific Rim Institute hosted the annual Camas Bake, a four-day event coordinated by the Coast Salish Youth Coalition that brings together over a hundred indigenous people from local tribes who come to share the tradition of camas prairie management and to cook camas and venison meat.

Following the event, Inslee felt inspired to look into more ways to strengthen relationships with indigenous groups and the surrounding community. After he landed the job, he was impressed to see how important the institute is to many people.

“(Robert) has created an organization that’s so heavily embedded in the community and so intimately connected with other like-minded organizations,” he said. “It really takes a person who has that relationship building capacity to run what he has built.”

A previous version of this story inaccurately stated Forrest Inslee worked for the Au Sable Institute, when in fact he had worked with the institute. Furthermore, the story reported that the camas is one of the main food sources for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, when it’s actually the golden paintbrush. We regret the errors.