We at the NEC are fortunate to have had some fantastic volunteers, interns and work-study students over the years! Here’s an update on one of our former Office Assistants from 2009-2010.
In 2009, I was a student at HSU working toward a double major in international studies and geography, and spent most of my time playing rugby. I did not know which career to pursue, but I did know that I cared about the environment. I had been awarded work-study through financial aid and the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) was an option listed. When I didn’t hear back right away about my inquiry, I walked into the NEC office, which was in Northtown Arcata at the time, and spoke with then-director Georgianna Wood. I remember her asking me why I cared about the environment and my response was, “I like to breathe.”
Times became pretty rough for the organization while I was there. We didn’t have much capacity for programs, but we made sure the basic functions for a non-profit were met because we believed that the NEC would be robust again one day. We made sure to have the office open for at least a couple hours a day and that all inquiries were addressed.
The NEC has what I believe to be a unique setup for its board of directors. Most of the directors are representatives of other environmental organizations (NEC Member Groups). This provided an opportunity to learn a lot about how non-profits work and about the plethora of environmental organizations and focus issues in our area.
There were big strides happening to remove the Klamath Dams while I was with the NEC. I remember posting a timeline to our office window for the removal of the dams—2020 seemed so far away and there were so many potential barriers that could detract from the goal of dam removal. It was inspiring that so much work had been put into an existing plan, and at the same time it was discouraging that the plan might not go through.
Another big event was the Humboldt County General Plan Update, with meetings held to discuss how we could make the county a healthy place while also protecting the environment. Through these two issues, I learned about the long periods of time that can pass before progress is made, and that it was not relative to my semesters at school.
I left the NEC after my graduation from HSU for an internship with the Student Conservation Association on Lake Texoma. I was an AmeriCorps Member with the Watershed Stewards Project, which I had originally learned about during my time at the NEC. I worked as a fisheries technician for a couple of years doing work such as spawner surveys, snorkel surveys, operating downstream migrant traps, carcass surveys, and habitat surveys. I hiked in a lot of rivers and handled a lot of fish, dead and alive.
When I was ready for a permanent position, I found a perfect opportunity in my hometown at Sanctuary Forest. I am a Land and Water Program Coordinator. What does that mean? Sanctuary Forest is a land and water trust, working to conserve land and water in the Mattole watershed.
I can’t decide which I like more (land or water), so I work in both programs. We hold conservation easements, which is a way for private landowners to conserve their land forever. I have the privilege to monitor the beautiful land to make sure it is preserved. Sanctuary Forest has state of the art water conservation projects. For example, we are trying to improve the water flow in the Mattole River in two ways. The first is by addressing the impact on streamflow from current human use by using storage and forbearance. The second is by addressing past land-use impacts by increasing groundwater infiltration and storage. I measure the streamflow and groundwater associated with these projects to monitor the effects.
If the opportunity arises for a student who “likes to breathe” to work with the NEC or any other environmental organization, I highly recommend it. There are so many projects, and there is such a need!