Feb 22

Celebrating the Long-time Commitment of Ryan Mello & Announcing Leadership Transition

Posted on February 22, 2021 at 8:40 AM by Allan Warren

Ryan - Pat - Jeanette
Seen here with longtime District equity partner, Patricia Coleman and Board Chairwoman Jeanette Dorner, Ryan Mello announced that he is stepping down as the District's Executive Director after 9-years of leadership. 

Puyallup, WA. – Ryan Mello, our executive director for the last 9 years, stepped down from his district position on Friday, February 19.  Ryan is transitioning into his new role as a recently elected Pierce County Councilmember.  While we at the District are sad to see Ryan go, we are proud of him and wish him well in his new capacity serving the county on the Pierce County Council.

“While I absolutely love the mission and employees of the Pierce Conservation District, leading the organization deserves someone who can give 110% of their focus and energy to its essential work,” said Mello. “It is time for the organization to find its next leader that will see it through its next phase of evolution and important service to the communities of Pierce County. In the coming months I will continue to serve as a volunteer, supporting the transition and succession planning in all the ways the Board and staff need – simply as a committed volunteer. I am so proud of the work of the conservation district, our staff, many partners, and volunteers.”  

As the Pierce Conservation District begins the process of looking for its next leader, we will be looking for someone who shares a strong passion for the work of conserving our natural resources, who excels at working in coalition with the community and partner organizations and has a strong interest in supporting the staff who do exceptional work every day. The organization’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative, started in 2016, is central to our organization. We expect our next leader to embrace and help lead our ongoing work to infuse equity into all that we do. 

“We are so fortunate for Ryan’s leadership over these last nine years. During his tenure we stabilized our finances, focused our programs to be of greater service to the people and natural resources of Pierce County, and have grown our impact exponentially. We could not be prouder of how far the district has come under Ryan’s leadership,” said Jeanette Dorner, Chair of the Board of Supervisors. 

In Mello’s time leading the Pierce Conservation District since 2012, the staff grew from 9 full time staff to 32 and from a budget of approximately $2 million to over $5.5 million. Program offerings have expanded beyond farm management best practices and water quality and habitat improvement to environmental education, climate resiliency and carbon credits, marine shoreline restoration, urban agriculture and more. This small but mighty organization is looked upon by community members and partner organizations as a go-to, can-do organization, ready to partner and find solutions to our most pressing natural resource challenges in our region. 

“The only thing constant in life is change,” Mello said about the transition. “While I’m absolutely committed to the success of the organization’s mission – change over time is inevitable. I want to thank the Board and our dedicated staff for their trust in me. I know the District will stay focused on the work even as the Board identifies its next leader. Our strong and committed staff team along with amazing partners and volunteers help us succeed in our work each and every day. That is not going away, and I will always be a friend and champion of the Conservation District.” 

Selena Corwin, Senior Director of Finance & Administration has been named Acting Executive Director by the Chair of the Board of Supervisors and will act in that capacity until the Board decides otherwise. Details of a search process will be forthcoming. You may follow the process at www.PierceCD.org. 

Dec 08

Despite COVID-19, Communities Across the Region Are Still Working to Recover Endangered Orca Whales

Posted on December 8, 2020 at 12:47 PM by Allan Warren

Whidbey Island CD
Conservation Districts and over 100 partner organizations inspired people to action across 17-states and four countries as part of Orca Recovery Day this year. With in-person events limited by the pandemic, partners launched an EcoChallenge platform to encourage actions in their own homes and neighborhoods. Above: Volunteers with Whidbey Island Conservation District help at a restoration event.

The global pandemic is limiting every aspect of our day-to-day lives, including our collective ability to restore local ecosystems and critically endangered species, such as the Southern Resident Orca Whales. As of October 2020, only 74 members of the Southern Residents remain, so pandemic or not, this work is still vital and urgent.

Washington Conservation Districts along with over 100 partners across the Pacific Northwest continue to inspire action to recover endangered Orcas through Orca Recovery Day. Now in it’s third year, Orca Recovery Day adapted this year to add an EcoChallenge digital platform, helping broaden and diversify engagement in the face of limitations on the number of peopleDuwamish River Cleanup Coalition that can participate in-person. The EcoChallenge encouraged action in the safety of ones own home and neighborhood and highlighted the impact that everyone can have on this issue through changing our daily habits.

Right: Volunteers with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition participate in a kayak trash cleanup, removing some of the over 53,000lbs of trash cleaned from local waterways.

Combined, the day of restoration events and the EcoChallenge united nearly 1,700 people across 17-states and four countries to help restore ecosystems that support Orca recovery. The collective impact of this partnership resulted in nearly 6,000 trees planted, over 22-acres of habitat restored, 53,000 pounds of trash cleaned up, and dozens of other actions leading to less waste, cleaner air, and climate change mitigation.

“I loved being a part of Orca Recovery Day to help my children make the connection between the parks we trek through and the impact plants and people have on water quality,” said Marguerite, a participant in Thurston Conservation District’s event. “It was a great day of learning, adventure, hard work, and a lot of fun!”

Check out the full EcoChallenge report and reflections here.

The EcoChallenge resulted in 60-teams competing in a friendly point system to see whose collective actions could have the greatest impact. A team from South Whidbey Elementary School, LaVassar Science Period, lead the way, with 78-team members collecting litter, leading advocacy efforts, and planting over 500 trees!Clear Creek Task Force

"I joined this challenge to check my awareness of environmental issues in our Pacific Northwest region, and to expand my understanding,” said Sophia, an EcoChallenge participant. “Each of us contributes individual action, but community coordination is important too. I wanted to learn how to harmonize my personal efforts with those of the community."

Right: Volunteers help plant trees as part of the Clear Creek Task Forces' riparian restoration event. Nearly 6,000 trees were planted on Orca Recovery Day this year.

Special thanks is due to funding partners for Orca Recovery Day, including: the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Washington State Conservation Commission, Milgard Foundation, One Tree Planted, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, The Russell Family Foundation, Boeing, Puget Sound Energy, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy.

For More Information: Visit www.BetterGround.org/ORD to find more detailed information on Orca Recovery Day, a detailed interactive story map of the issues facing Southern Resident Orcas, and examples of things everyone can do to support recovery efforts.

Dec 07

Welcome New AmeriCorps!

Posted on December 7, 2020 at 10:55 AM by Allan Warren

Each Fall, we get to welcome a new cohort of AmeriCorps members who join us on 9 - 12 month placements to support our efforts to deliver our mission to the community. With work from home the norm now, it's a strange time to be joining an organization and meet your new coworkers, so please join us in wishing all these great new team members an extra special welcome!

Leika headshotWelcome Leika Hansen!
Leika, pronounced “lake-uh”, is the new AmeriCorps member in Environmental Education. Originally from Michigan, she graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah with a bachelors degree in environmental science before moving to western Washington. She loves being outside and talking about the beautiful world we live in. In her down time, she enjoys swimming, biking, hiking, taking photos, and sewing. While we will be working differently through the pandemic, she is excited to help in any way possible!

Welcome Madelyn Houde!
My name is Madelyn Houde and I am serving as the Habitat Improvement Specialist for Pierce Conservation District. I graduated from the University of Florida in 2018 withMaddie Photo
 a bachelor’s degree in marine sciences. Since then, I have been working seasonally in natural resources throughout eastern Oregon and Washington. As a fan of too many outdoor activities, you can find me exploring some of the amazing Puget Sound scuba dive sites or trying to adapt to the west side mountain bike trails (roots?! mud?!). I hope to contribute in many ways and am greatly looking forward to my time with PCD!

Welcome Mike Malpasuto!
Harvest Pierce County is excited to welcome their new AmeriCorps place, Mike Malpasuto, who will be supporting the gleaning program. Mike received his BA in Classics from the University of Rochester. He then moved to Seattle to receive his Master’s in Teaching from SPU while teaching Latin at MikeRoosevelt High School. Mike developed a passion for food justice while in college learning about low accessibility to healthy produce as he was beginning gardening. Mike worked on a 1 acre no-till farm in Everett, WA where he learned how to farm, which in turn led him to want to use his teaching degree for sustainable agriculture and food justice. Mike is also an avid rock climber and spent some time working at Vertical World in Seattle. 

Welcome Amy Pearl!
Hello everyone, my name is Amy Pearl. Before finding my love within the environmental world, my first passion was being a competitive dancer. I transitioned that love of being a dancer over to being a dance instructor and I am currently still involved within that world and love every
Picture of Amy
 second of teaching the youth of today. I graduated from the University of Washington Bothell,Go Dawgs, with my bachelor’s in environmental studies with a focus in sustainability and water quality. After graduating, I was lucky to get to work two seasons as an Invasive Plant Technician for Snohomish County last year and within Pierce Conservation District this year. I am beyond excited to get to serve and collaborate within my new community!

Welcome Back Allie Campbell!
I am really excited to be returning this year for another term as the Water Quality Outreach Specialist with AmeriCorps. Prior Picture of Allieto starting at PCD, I had no idea how much I did not know about the environmental world. While serving my first term, I learned so much fascinating information about our ecosystem and gained a long list of crucial skills that I can take with me wherever I go. I also got to plan and coordinate events, lead restoration and volunteer crews, teach children about storm water, and interact with many diverse groups of people throughout Pierce County.

This year, I get to do all those things and more. Now that I have a year of service under my belt, I am able to self-manage much of my work. With that being said, I was able to take more of a lead role with the Urban Tree Sale and Rain Barrel workshop series— and for the first time for PCD ever, I launched these programs virtually. In addition to project management, I am learning new skills like web design and strategic planning, and I plan on becoming more involved with cross-program needs as well.

I look forward to another year of service and professional growth.