Great Peninsula Conservancy Director Announces Retirement

Photo by Kenna Cox

Read the Central Kitsap Reporter coverage here.

BREMERTON, WA (April 30, 2019) – Executive director of Great Peninsula Conservancy announces retirement after 11 years leading the land trust through a period of tremendous growth.

When it comes to saving native forests, salmon streams, and marine shorelines, many of us routinely look to Great Peninsula Conservancy to make it happen. The land trust was a leading partner in Kitsap County’s purchase of the 3,400 acre Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park and recently purchased 160 acres of former Boy Scout Camp Hahobas on Hood Canal near Dewatto. These lands are now protected forever for wildlife and people.

Just a few years before these accomplishments, Great Peninsula Conservancy led a community campaign to save the historic Petersen Farm in Silverdale after the death of its longtime owner left the land in danger of being parceled up into house lots, meaning a loss of prime farmland and of the scenic pastoral view enjoyed from nearby Clear Creek Trail.

But it wasn’t always this way.

In 2008, when its current executive director Sandra Staples-Bortner was hired, the land trust was struggling with only two staff and dwindling financial resources. Over the last decade Staples-Bortner has grown Great Peninsula Conservancy into a regional powerhouse with deep connections to local communities, annual financial growth, healthy cash reserves, and a track record of conserving 10,500 acres – all but 2,100 of those acres were protected during her tenure. This acreage includes lands owned by Great Peninsula Conservancy and lands now owned by public agencies such as Kitsap County Parks.

Staples-Bortner has announced her intention to retire on May 31. The conservancy’s board of directors expects to announce the selection of a new executive director in the next few weeks.

“On my first day as executive director of Great Peninsula Conservancy in February 2008, I knew I had found my dream job. Now I could direct my passion for nature and expertise in wildlife ecology and nonprofit management toward saving lands close to home,” stated Staples-Bortner. “What could be better than that!” she continued.

Sandra attributes GPC’s success to the peninsula’s outdoor-loving and generous community. From Hansville to Gig Harbor to Belfair, people have poured their hearts and dollars into saving cherished forests, streams, and shorelines. Their generosity enabled the staff to grow to seven today, and this dedicated and talented team has driven Great Peninsula Conservancy’s success under Staples-Bortner’s experienced hand.

Great Peninsula Conservancy President Kit Ellis expressed it this way, “Sandra has a knack for connecting people to the land and inspiring people to want to help save it. She has made it easy for each of us to make a difference by joining a volunteer work party or making a donation.”

“After eleven years as executive director of this incredible organization, I am ready to turn leadership of our vibrant land trust over to someone new to lead GPC on the next leg of its journey,” said Staples-Bortner. “I am ready to travel with my husband, play with my two young grandchildren, and enjoy the great outdoors!” she continued.

About Great Peninsula Conservancy

Great Peninsula Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust working to protect forever the natural habitats, rural landscapes, and open spaces of the Great Peninsula – a region encompassing Kitsap, north Mason, and west Pierce counties, Washington. Great Peninsula Conservancy has protected over 10,500 acres of this spectacular region of west Puget Sound, including magnificent forests, saltwater shorelines, salmon streams, and wildlife-rich estuaries.  More at GreatPeninsula.org.