- Cathy Macdonald, the Conservancy’s Oregon director of conservation
You started with the Conservancy as an intern at Cascade Head, and elsewhere, more than 30 years ago. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since then?
When I started, we stood at our fence line and looked in. Today, we stand at our fence line and look out. It’s become abundantly clear that we need to succeed at much bigger scales. To do that, we need to clearly demonstrate how protecting and restoring nature benefits people as well.
The science and practice of conservation has evolved tremendously in the last 30 years. We know so much more now about biological diversity, the value of healthy ecosystems and what works in conservation.
What’s an example of being effective at a bigger scale?
Oregonians are beginning to restore forests in Eastern and Southern Oregon at the scale of tens of thousands of acres, improving conditions across whole watersheds. This is critical because we have a 9-million-acre problem in our public forests, and, unless we scale up, we’ll lose them.
Many local collaborations are coalescing around a shared vision of what a healthy forest should look like. The Nature Conservancy can provide the science and technical support that helps shape that vision and translate it into action. We have decades of work ahead of us, but we’re on the right track.
Where else are we trying to scale up?
In addition to restoring forests, we are focusing on several other critically important natural systems in Oregon. Sustaining vibrant rivers and wetlands. Restoring abundant fisheries to our ocean, estuaries and coastal communities. Securing Willamette Valley and Zumwalt Prairie grasslands. And maintaining a healthy sagebrush ecosystem in Oregon’s high desert. In each case, there’s an urgent need and opportunity to advance solutions at a bigger scale.
That sounds like a lot. Who’s going to do it all?
I’m impressed with the power of the Timbers Army — let’s start with them! [Laughs.]
But seriously, it’s up to all of us as Oregonians. The Conservancy can’t buy a river, but we can work with the Corps of Engineers to design water flows from dams to meet the needs of fish and improve their habitats. That’s what we’re doing on the Willamette. Helping to bring partners together to build a sustainable future is pretty exciting – and very promising for Oregon’s future.
Stephen Anderson is Oregon director of communications for The Nature Conservancy.