Connecting Power of Community with Passion for Nature

Connecting Power of Community with Passion for Nature

The Gorge Refuge Stewards is a group of dedicated volunteers working to preserve, protect, and restore the native habitat on three National Wildlife Refuges on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge: Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake and Pierce.

On the Refuge

A word from our Stewardship and Community Engagement Coordinator 

Saying Farewell to Gorge Refuge Stewards: Reflections on Eight Years of Stewardship and Community Engagement


Leaving a job after dedicating several years of your life to an organization can be bittersweet. It's a time of reflection, gratitude, and excitement for new opportunities. As I bid farewell to my role as the Stewardship and Community Engagement Coordinator at Gorge Refuge Stewards after eight fulfilling years, I am overwhelmed with a mix of emotions. This journey has been nothing short of extraordinary, and I am grateful for the privilege of working alongside amazing volunteers, refuge staff, and partners who share a passion for wildlife, the preservation of our natural world, and connecting people with nature.


During my time at the Gorge Refuges, we accomplished a wide variety of projects that had a lasting positive effect on both the wildlife and the visitors at the Refuges. Together, we worked tirelessly to protect and enhance the delicate ecosystems, ensuring that they thrive for generations to come. The dedication and hard work of the volunteers, staff, and partners have left an indelible mark on the Refuges and the surrounding communities.


One aspect that made my tenure at Gorge Refuge Stewards particularly rewarding was our commitment to growth and progress. We recognized the importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in our work and undertook meaningful conversations and initiatives to foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment. By diving into these conversations head-on, we prepared ourselves to engage with new communities in fresh and innovative ways, supporting their connection with the wonders of nature.


Working in the nonprofit sector has taught me many lessons in management, collaboration, and strategic planning. I am immensely grateful for the opportunities I had to develop and refine my skills in these areas. The experience of working with the board managing a nonprofit organization, coupled with the intricacies of public lands management, has provided me with a solid foundation that I look forward to utilizing in my future work.


As I embark on a new chapter in Virginia, I carry with me the memories, knowledge, and relationships I built during my time at Gorge Refuge Stewards. The connections forged with volunteers, partners, and fellow conservationists will forever hold a special place in my heart. Together, we accomplished great things and made a positive impact on our natural world.


To the volunteers who tirelessly dedicated their time and energy to support our mission, thank you. Your unwavering commitment and passion for preserving our wildlife and habitats are the driving force behind our successes. Without your hard work and dedication, none of this would have been possible.


To the partners who collaborated with us, thank you. Your shared vision, expertise, and resources allowed us to tackle ambitious projects and achieve outcomes that exceeded our expectations. Your commitment to conservation and community engagement is commendable.


To the staff and colleagues at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the Board of the Gorge Refuge Stewards, thank you. Your support, guidance, and camaraderie made each day at work a joy. The memories we created together will be cherished forever.


To the members of the Gorge Refuge Stewards, thank you.  The support of members enhances the engagement opportunities at public events as well as supports larger projects on the landscape at the Refuges.  With this change in structure of our organization without an employee, members have an opportunity to step up into a more active role to support the mission of the Gorge Refuge Stewards.  This work is so important that I encourage anyone reading this to consider contributing a little bit of your time to supporting the Stewards in their fundraising, advocacy, and community engagement goals.


As I reflect on my time at Gorge Refuge Stewards, I am filled with gratitude for the incredible journey and the tremendous impact we made together. Leaving this position is not an end but a new beginning—an opportunity to take the knowledge, experience, and passion gained here to make a difference in a different corner of the world.


Although I may be physically leaving the Gorge Refuge Stewards, the memories, friendships, and the impact we created will forever remain a part of who I am. I am excited to bring the lessons learned, the skills honed, and the passion nurtured to my future endeavors in Virginia.


Thank you, Gorge Refuge Stewards, for an unforgettable eight years. I will always carry the spirit of this organization with me as I continue to work towards a brighter and more sustainable future for our planet.


Jared Strawderman


Upcoming Events

Recent Sightings at Steigerwald Lake

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    24 Jul 2024 by Kindra Andrews

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    22 Jul 2024 by brad kelley

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    18 Jul 2024 by Jayden Forrest-Caldwell

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