Our current Program Director, Serena Becker, is moving on in January after a great 5 years with our organization. Throughout the interview process I was often asked by candidates why I work for Opal Creek, what keeps me motivated to work on behalf of our mission of promoting conservation through educational experiences in wilderness—why do I do it?
The heart of it is that I am worried. I am worried for our wild places, our ancient forests, our high deserts, our oceans, our alpine regions, our heritage. Our planet is changing, there are more demands on our resources, our climate is warming—we need a populous focused on solutions. We need people to connect and to value these places and landscapes if we expect them to be preserved among this great pressure that is mounting. And this is where the work that Opal Creek does is changing the world, opening minds, challenging ideas, asking for solutions. It remains some of the most important and wide-reaching work we can do as we prepare for the future.
As I reflect on the 2015 season, drought is the first word that comes to mind. You know that much of the west is in a drought currently, and that in Oregon snow pack was 11%-16% of normal last winter, leading to low rivers and dry landscapes throughout the spring and summer. Living deep in the ancient forest means that we feel this climate shift in many ways. Our Pelton Wheel struggled to make enough power throughout much of the summer and fall, and we will need to install a back-up generator to maintain operations in the times of low water that we foresee in the future.
We also saw one of the busiest seasons of public use in the Opal Creek watershed that we can remember. More and more people are getting out and exploring the ancient forest, which is wonderful. However, with these increased numbers, we saw much more trash dotting the forest and rivers. And although the forest was on a fire ban all summer long, essentially making all open fires illegal, we still encountered numerous groups unaware or unconcerned with the fire ban, and actually having open fires in a forest that was dry as a tinderbox.
We need your help. We need to teach the public how to responsibly enjoy our magnificent public lands. We must show the next generation that wild places are crucial and must be preserved—because they are all we have.
At Opal Creek, we do a lot with a little. I believe our greatest asset is our community: staff, board, donors, volunteers, participants, and you. I am continually amazed by the work our staff and board do on behalf of the programs we run. We are a small group that accomplishes great things, but we cannot do it without your support. Join me in this critical mission today.