We’re excited to announce the founding board of the Willamette River Network!
The Network, which will connect and support people and groups working together to achieve a healthy Willamette River system, will launch this winter. Its seven-member board is comprised of respected community leaders with diverse lived experience and professional expertise, hailing from points throughout the Willamette Basin. It includes restoration and conservation professionals, advocates, educators and students, experienced and rising leaders. They have expertise in healthy rivers and wildlife, environmental justice, youth leadership development, tribal sovereignty and sustainability. They are:
- Co-Chair Robin Morris Collin, Norma J. Paulus Professor of Law at Willamette University
- Co-Chair Michael Pope, Executive Director of Greenbelt Land Trust
- Queta Gonzalez, Director of the Center for Diversity & the Environment
- Clinton Begley, Executive Director of the Long Tom Watershed Council
- Gabe Sheoships, Education Director of the Friends of Tryon Creek
- Debbie Craig, a family lawyer and longtime champion of conservation and public education
- Nabin Dhimal, a graduate student at Portland State University and mentor to immigrant and refugee youth
These community leaders are committed to championing an inclusive river health vision for the Willamette and the communities it sustains. The board’s early work will include building relationships, identifying needs and seeking opportunities for partnerships and funding to enable people and rivers to thrive together.
The makeup of this board reflects the diverse strengths of our region and the Network’s role uniting people and groups from throughout the Willamette Basin for clean water, healthy habitats and thriving communities. Learn about the Network’s values and goals here.
Robin Morris Collin, a scholar and activist on issues such as climate change, sustainability and environmental justice, and Michael Pope, a longtime leader in Willamette Basin restoration and land conservation, will serve as the board’s founding co-chairs.
“In this Network, human justice and equity is not a byproduct of a healthier river,” Collin said. “It’s at the heart of how we see the work of river restoration.”We ask a lot of the Willamette: Drinking water, recreation, cultural connection, wildlife habitat, economic output and more. The river’s ability to meet those demands is tied directly to how we treat it. Yet, despite major strides to improve its health in recent decades, the Willamette remains threatened by pollution, habitat loss, climate change and development.
This board will work alongside Network participants to achieve a future in which people and rivers thrive together. Among its first duties: Hiring staff co-directors who will work with the board in the coming months to build out the Network’s core infrastructure.
Once staff are in place, the Network will begin building relationships with conservation organizations, community groups, tribes, business owners, government officials and Willamette Basin residents to take action for clean, abundant water and healthy habitats. The Network will fundraise to support participants’ priorities, provide coordination and shared services, champion equity and inclusion, raise the profile of participants’ work, and support local, state and federal actions that make a healthier river possible.
The board formation is a major milestone in the process to build a community-led Network to continue supporting river health efforts efforts after the conclusion of the Willamette River Initiative. The initiative, an 11-year funding program of the Meyer Memorial Trust that sought to improve the health of the Willamette River system, ended this year after helping to ignite a new era of river restoration progress. Initiative partners knew that in order to maintain their momentum, they needed a regional network to continue supporting efforts to care for the Willamette.
“There is so much great work happening to restore our river basin,” Collin said. “So many seedlings of action poking up. The Network’s job is to make sure that we provide the nutrient mix so these efforts can thrive.”