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Oregon

Answering the Call to Conservation


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“It’s not just the bird itself that inspires me. It’s their connection to habitat and to conservation."

Russ Hoeflich
Oregon Director, The Nature Conservancy

Forged years ago, the memories feel just burned. A great egret spears a red-winged blackbird mid-flight and swallows. A kettle of hawks spirals upward, blackening the sky. Loons call hauntingly upon their spring return.

Whether Russ Hoeflich realized it then or not, he now knows those outdoor moments helped shaped his view on the world around us.

“My father made sure I was exposed to the natural world as a teenager,” Hoeflich said, “sending me on birding trips with friends and out to OMSI camp each summer. My parents knew a child’s connection to nature is integral to happiness and to the planet’s future.”

Today Hoeflich leads the Conservancy's work in Oregon. The country’s youngest-ever Master Bird Bander at 13, he migrated here from The Hamptons on Long Island in the mid-1980s. Now, instead of the East Coast course, he watches and listens for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway—and hatches ideas for how we can help them along their (and our) paths.

“It’s not just the bird itself that inspires me,” Hoeflich said. “It’s their connection to habitat and to conservation. It’s the distances they’ve traveled and the struggles they’ve overcome. People can learn a lot from birds. I know I have.

But lessons like Hoeflich’s are fading fast for many young people today. Research shows that, in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9 to 13 play outside (1), and kids 8 to 18 spend more than 50 hours a week using entertainment media (2). Among the results? Nature feels, well, unnatural.

To help change that, the Conservancy is reconnecting families with nature. “Children need to explore the natural world and discover how much it provides. We’re creating opportunities for that this field season,” Hoeflich said. “By learning about and helping restore places like Yamhill Oaks, kids can discover and nurture their connections to place.” 

Then, they can answer the call to conservation.



(1) Children and Nature Network, 2008
(2) Kaiser Family Foundation

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