Out West student blog

Considering Forever

Sophie Boyd-Fliegel stands in the old riverbed of the Whychus Creek in the Rimrock Ranch Preserve. A project to restore the riverbed is in the works. (photo credit: Fiona Noonan).

By Sophie Boyd-Fliegel '21

Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Conservation Intern, Deschutes Land Trust

 

 

 

Why did you want to do this internship?

As development takes off in my hometown of Seattle, my current home in the Bay Area, and everywhere in between, I’ve felt open spaces become increasingly precious. I jumped at the opportunity to intern at the Deschutes Land Trust, a nonprofit in central Oregon, whose mission is to work with landowners to conserve land for wildlife, scenic views, and local communities. Since starting, I’ve learned that land trusts don’t just set aside properties until a condominium contractor offers them a bunch of money. Rather, it’s stewarded and restored, actively conserved forever. Like, forever-ever. This idea of protecting something as conceptual as property for an amount of time as sweeping as forever is something I’m excited to define through my work this summer.

How does your role support the host organization's mission?

Part of my role as Conservation Intern is to craft and update guiding documents for the Land Trust, like the Climate Change Strategy and land acquisition criteria, which help define how the Land Trust prioritizes and acquires land to protect. Conserving land forever demands attention to global climate change and, for the Deschutes Land Trust, incorporating climate science into every aspect of operations is like an insurance policy for the organization itself.

How would you describe one of the projects you will be working on this summer?

The Land Trust thinks very strategically about which land is worth conserving. My job is to make sure these strategies are recorded and consistent with the latest environmental science, reviewing everything from peer-reviewed articles to like-minded nonprofit or governmental publications.

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals?

Within my major of Human Biology I have chosen to focus on socio-ecological systems. This means I study the impact of human decisions on the environment and environmental pressures on humans as part of inescapably linked networks. My projects at the Land Trust show me how different disciplines of land management (law, climate science, hydrology, biology, geology, etc.) are actually used in restoration and conservation projects. I’m also learning how community engagement with these projects makes that science relevant to anyone living or visiting Central Oregon.

Has anything surprised you about the work, the organization, or the environment?

The Land Trust has historically stayed apolitical with its work, avoiding polarized advocacy in order to keep the doors open for transactions or engagement with people from any walk of life in Central Oregon. I’ve been surprised to see this in an environmental organization, but it makes sense when acknowledging that the values of conservation bleed across political and socioeconomic boundaries. I’m interested to see which issues the Land Trust will engage with as it grows in prominence and permanence.

 

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