My first real interaction with forests and mountains was during a bike ride across the country in the mid-90s. Our small group launched from Seattle, peddling over the northern Cascade Mountains within the first couple of days. We were en route to Washington D.C. and had about 10 weeks to complete the 3,600 mile ride. A highlight was having a snowball fight on the 4th of July, at nearly 11,000 feet, while crossing the Rocky Mountains by way of Beartooth Pass. The slow peddle up multiple switchbacks was worth the sweat, as we flew like birds down the other side, passing cars and rolling into Red Lodge, the town that awaited us with generous hosts serving thick pans of lasagna.
I come from a long line of Midwestern farmers. My parents both grew up on farms and my cousins, brothers and I spent our weekends harassing cows and wandering along the creek at my grandparent’s farm. I was teased as I was one of the younger ones and believed that chocolate milk came from brown cows. Despite enjoying the outdoors of the Midwest, once I was immersed in the beauty and diversity of the forests and mountains, there was no returning to farmlands.
I found the place I have called my home for nearly 20 years, after accepting an invitation to interview for a job upon completing graduate school at the University of British Columbia. It was a sunny day in December 1998 when I drove over Echo Summit and saw Lake Tahoe’s clear blue waters, engulfed in a ring of snow-capped mountains, for the first time. From that moment I was determined to get the job that I was driving toward despite knowing very little about the topic. With each passing day I fell more in love with the Lake Tahoe Basin and expansive Sierra Nevada Mountains stretching north and south from Tahoe.
Eventually I found my way back into my field of natural resources, working for different California state agencies in forestry, climate adaptation and policy, water quality, ecosystem services and renewable energy. I am happy to now work with a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting land managers to protect and restore our forests to maintain clean air, high water quality, carbon sinks and peaceful places to recreate and connect to our hearts.
It is such a gift to live in and work to protect the landscape that feeds my soul, and stimulates and challenges my mind, with work that is fueled by passion. I’m grateful to be a part of the dynamic NFF team working across the country, while also working in my own backyard with long time neighbors and friends.