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With Friends, Environmental Law Leader Comes Full Circle

With Friends, Environmental Law Leader Comes Full Circle
Sunny Gorge view from Ruthton Park in Hood River. (photographer: Warren Morgan)
By Buck Parker
Vice Chair, Friends of the Columbia Gorge Board of Directors
December 23, 2020

I grew up in Hood River in the 1950s and '60s, and while that was decades before it would become a National Scenic Area, the Columbia Gorge nurtured my love of nature. As an adult, I spent most of my working life in San Francisco with the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice.

My career exposed me to a broad range of environmental issues, from the battles over oil drilling in the Arctic to preservation of the Amazon rainforest, as well as our own old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. When I retired, though, I knew the Gorge was where I wanted to be, and for the last six years my wife and I have lived in the Hood River Valley.

But the Gorge has changed in the seven decades I've known it. It has become a fossil fuel corridor, threatening its rivers and the safety of Gorge communities. Salmon and other native fish are on the verge of extinction, and climate change is magnifying the danger of wildfires.

When I returned to Hood River, I wanted to continue working on local conservation issues that have national consequences. That's what drew me to an opportunity to serve on the board of directors at Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

Over the past 40 years, Friends has grown from a small, scrappy environmental advocacy group to a larger, scrappy conservation group that fights in the policy arena, preserves and stewards Gorge lands, and annually introduces hundreds of children to the Gorge's wonders. I'm happy that Friends is as zealous as ever in its protection of the Gorge. I'm even happier that it now partners creatively with other conservation groups and community activists to broaden its reach and impact. That includes launching a new diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice initiative.

As I learned first-hand from over 50 years of working in the conservation community, the future of special places like the Gorge can't be left to chance. A combination of creative advocacy, bold leadership, and dynamic public partnerships will be critical to preserving the Columbia Gorge for future generations. And I'm pleased to bring my experience to ensuring that Friends remains committed to that fight and protecting the Gorge—my home and a place unlike any other on Earth.