As we enter the new year, the Northwest program is looking ahead with hope and excitement. We are grateful to our friends, partners and members and supporters who have stood by us and pushed us forward in defense of wildlife and wild places.
Across the Pacific Northwest, our team focuses on recovering struggling species, developing and promoting best practices for coexistence, maintaining protections of mature and old growth forests and implementing actions and policies to improve habitat quality for wildlife and humans alike. Wherever we work, we strive for inclusivity, and actively welcome and promote newcomers to the wildlife conservation circle!
Stationed in Portland, Dr. Sristi Kamal, Defenders’ senior Northwest representative, leads the Oregon Wildlife Coalition and works closely with lawmakers, agency staff and commission members to apply the best available science and advocate for greater protections of our imperiled species and habitats. Sristi has developed strong relationships with partners like Cascadia Wild to engage a wider audience of Oregonians to become wildlife ambassadors and champions.
Coexistence representative (and our resident wolf expert), Dr. Zoë Hanley, works in Oregon and Washington, collaborating with state agencies, academic institutions and conservation partners to promote coexistence between humans and our animal neighbors. 2020 was Zoë’s first full year with Defenders, and she established relationships with ranchers, land-owners and interest groups. In 2021, she will continue to work closely with people across the region to live safely and humanely among bears, wolves and all wildlife.
On the coast, Robb Krehbiel, our Northwest representative, continues to work to prevent the extinction of the distinct population of southern resident orcas. Among his diverse efforts, Robb works with public schools to build orca-friendly raingardens benefitting the whales, the environment and the next generation of environmentalists. Raingardens act as filters, removing toxins and pollutants from run-off water entering rivers and streams where chinook salmon spawn. Along with building and maintaining these gardens, Robb is also building long-lasting relationships with local schools, tribal partners and regional organizations throughout Washington.
Our three representatives form the bedrock of Defenders’ Northwest program. 2020 brought big changes to the team with the departure of two staff in spring who moved on to exciting new opportunities in the environmental sector in our region. We wish them all the best and look forward to continuing to collaborate on regional conservation issues with them. In the fall, we welcomed Dr. Kathleen Gobush as Northwest director and Mairi Poisson as coordinator. Kathleen joins Defenders after decades of tirelessly working to advance wildlife conservation around the world. She brings an extensive background in scientific research and leadership in endangered species recovery while working in the federal government, academic, corporate and non-profit sectors. As a skilled naturalist, Mairi worked with conservation detection dogs on wildlife monitoring initiatives throughout the country before joining Defenders. Kathleen and Mairi will work to support the team, engage in programs and initiatives in Washington and Oregon and are eager to add their energy and expertise to the Northwest program’s many successful conservation efforts already underway.
This winter and spring are going to be challenging for us all as the pandemic continues, but we’ve faced challenges before and we’ll get through this together. Brighter days are ahead for all of us in 2021 and we will continue to be a voice for a resilient Northwest, its wildlife, ecosystems and communities. We will strive to promote thriving wolf populations on our landscape and the implementation of nonlethal best practices that promote their coexistence with communities; the return of the grizzly bear to the North Cascades; reverse the decline of the southern resident orcas and their chinook salmon prey through the advancement of dam removals, habitat restoration and other threat mitigation; begin building a pathway for the return of the sea otter to the Oregon coast; and maintain and enhance old-growth forests, their carbon sequestration benefits and unique biodiversity such as the marbled murrelet. We look forward to working with you to continue to value and advocate for wildlife and wild lands!