Great Peninsula Conservancy is excited to welcome Nate Daniel to the team! (Pictured here at Spring Dinner with his wife, Kim.) He’s eager to get to know you in the upcoming year and would love to hear your input and address any questions you might have for him.
Kitsap Daily News ran a story about Nate here. I sat down with Nate on his second week in the office to discuss his environmental background, his recreational interests, his passion for conservation, and his goals for the future of GPC.
What do you miss most about Reno and the desert, and what are you most excited to explore and experience in the Pacific Northwest?
It was a little bittersweet leaving the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the high desert. Clearly Lake Tahoe is a real gem, and I’ll miss it. I’ll also miss walking among petroglyphs scattered across the sagebrush sea, as they call it. But, at heart, I’m most attracted to green, forested canopies overhead and a multitude of flowering plants underfoot. That’s where I’m most happy, so I have to say it has been a pretty easy transition back to an ecosystem with a ton of biodiversity.
What fueled your passion to dedicate your career to conservation and community engagement?
Ya know, from the time I was a boy I was curious about the natural world. Lucky for me, there was a creek and woods behind my house that I could play in whenever I liked. As a young adult serving in Peace Corps, I got to live in some nearly untrammeled corners of the world like the Russian taiga. Those experiences living on the edge of human development and true wildlands opened my eyes to the value of conservation. Later, in my twenties and thirties, I spent a great deal of time doing my best to connect people to nature. There are few things more rewarding than seeing a kid make an ecological connection. That holds even more true today when so many of us don’t have the luxury of just walking out the back door and being immersed in the woods.
What’s the most valuable takeaway you learned during your founding and directing of Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation?
Probably that most people want to make a positive difference and are looking for opportunities to improve their communities. Non-profits can serve as that catalyst by providing valuable ways for people to get involved and these touch points are only limited by our imagination.
What’s your favorite recreational activity?
My partner Kim and I spend a great deal of time hiking in wildlands. We’ve found spending time walking in greenspace really is the best way to decompress after a long workweek. We’re also plant nerds, so there have been quite a few times we’ve set off for a three-hour hike and eight hours later we get back to the trailhead hungry, but really jazzed up by all the new wildflowers we’ve been able to ID.
Tell me about an exceptional hands-on stewardship/restoration/research project you’ve worked on in recent years.
The final project I was leading when I left the Parks Foundation was creating the Truckee Meadows Nature Study Area. Basically, we were converting an old golf course into a functional wetland. This project was so cool because it hit all of those things you mentioned. It was hands-on because we had volunteer days planned for the public to get out and do weed pulls and native plantings to improve the habitat. We had a team of ten AmeriCorps members who will start this September on the more technical components of the restoration work, really digging into the hydrology and suite of trees and other plants that will be appropriate for planting on site. We were partnering with researchers at the University of Nevada as well as several state and federal agencies to set up baseline monitoring sites for various ecological questions they had, and were working on incorporating a community science component to these projects to give the public another chance to get engaged and collect valuable data that the researchers simply wouldn’t have had the resources to get otherwise.
Great Peninsula Conservancy has seen a lot of growth in the last decade. What do you see as GPC’s goals and priorities in the next ten years?
Great question! The growth that Sandra, the staff, and the board have been able to make in the past decade is very impressive. I feel very lucky to join GPC at this exciting time. I believe we should continue that trajectory by continuing to prioritize the conservation of ecologically-valuable lands and redouble our efforts to restore the ones we already own. Currently, GPC owns over 1,000 acres of land and manages conservation easements on 1,000 more acres. That is a lot of land to manage! In order to do all of that we really need to broaden and deepen our membership base so we have the resources to do even more and ensure GPC is a community fixture forever.
Why is GPC’s mission important to you?
Our mission is to protect the natural habitats, rural landscapes, and open spaces of the Great Peninsula. I can honestly think of no greater cause to dedicate myself to than this one. This peninsula has seen substantial development, but there is so much that is still wild here and worth protecting. As Seattleites start to see West Puget Sound as a more and more viable commute, we will see increasing development pressures here and that means time is of the essence to save the most valuable properties defined in our mission. That is a huge challenge and one that I am excited to play an important role in. Hint, hint: If you’re not already a member, become one today!
How can members get in touch with you?
Well, I hold a standing open door policy with both staff and with the public, so please, come down to our office at 423 Pacific Avenue anytime and say hi. It’s a great excuse to pull myself away from the computer screen and hear what’s going on. I also welcome calls anytime at 360-373-3500. As I get settled into the job, I plan on getting out to as many community events as possible and will certainly be at any and all upcoming community walks and member events held by GPC. I look forward to hearing from lots of folks who care about conserving special places here on the peninsula. Thank you!