JARED STRAWDERMAN: VOLUNTEER MAGNET

By Beth Marlin Lichter

Jarad 1

Jared Strawderman/Photo by Beth Marlin Lichter

 

Why do folks raise their hands to join one of Jared Strawderman’s committees? And note how quickly spaces filled up for his volunteer work crews, setting out to plant trees at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, in the mud! Watch partnerships develop and grow as he strives to accomplish his goals as Stewardship & Community Engagement Coordinator for the Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards. Strawderman is the only employee of this organization, his position curated under the auspices of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and their Urban Refuge Program. With great enthusiasm for the preservation and future of the Gorge Refuge System (Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake and Pierce National Wildlife Refuges), he has taken on multiple supervisory roles.

 

Duties include monitoring the maintenance of trails, roads and facilities at all three locations. Jared writes articles and reports, designs interpretive exhibits for refuge visitors, and creates programs for classrooms. For instance, in conjunction with the Oregon Zoo and Washington Department of Fish & WIldlife, he developed a middle school presentation on Western Pond Turtle Conservation at Pierce National Wildlife Refuge. Who knows, maybe one of those kids at one of those presentations, has been inspired to learn more about conservation and wildlife and will embark upon a career as Steward of the Land in one capacity or another.

 

Jared Strawderman describes himself as “passionate about environmental conservation, social justice, and facilitating people’s connection to nature in an equitable and inclusive way.” He forms partnerships, builds teams and programs to engender communication with individuals from various cultural, social, economic and political backgrounds. He is responsible for the creation of the Steigerwald Photography Group which meets every month, and is deeply committed to the development and ongoing efforts of a group he is curating, the Gorge Stewards’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

 

Starting out simply as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Gorge Refuge Stewards, it was soon apparent from the variety, complexity and number of roles he was taking on, that his job title needed to change. Strawderman has his eye on every aspect of refuge management and growth. Where does that depth of knowledge come from?

jared 2

Banding Pelicans at Pea Island NWR

 

He attributes his versatility to a great beginning, a summer internship at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island in North Carolina during his college years. Every week they rotated tasks, including maintenance, biology and visitor services. There was also an inspiring teacher of note, Jared’s ornithology instructor at school, whose love of wildlife was profound and enlightening.

 

Jared sits on multiple committees, initiating short and long-term goals, overseeing and working hands-on in so many capacities…how does he do it? With volunteers. He explains that the Gorge Refuge Stewards would not be an organization without them, and on his watch a comprehensive volunteer program is blossoming. He leads the recruitment, training, engagement, supervision and reporting of this program which includes but is not limited to the training of Trail Stewards, the ambassador volunteers who engage the public on behalf of the Gorge Refuges. Coordinating stewardship activities at Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake and Pierce National Wildlife Refuges also falls under his umbrella.

 

What drives his enthusiasm? “It’s the passion of the people who visit and the volunteers I work with. It’s motivating to see that energy for conservation.”

Jared 3 Jared Strawderman and Ambassador Volunteers On New Steigerwald Levee/Opening Day 5/1/1022

 

Jared was a Boy Scout, raised in a family that was “pretty outdoorsy”. Both parents are from the Shenandoah Valley where his Granddad owned a Christmas tree farm with a fishing pond. His grandfather was an avid backyard birdwatcher, with feeders on the property and books on birds, available for him to peruse. That interest definitely rubbed off on his grandson.

 

Growing up surfing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Jared was regularly exposed to a vast array of wildlife on protected land, which also accounts for his connection to the natural world. Sea Turtles nest on those beaches. Bottlenose Dolphins pop up to surf alongside you. Other inhabitants one might encounter are wild horses, bears, mink, foxes and yes, even alligators.

Jared 4

Jared Surfing on the Outer Banks

 

Armed with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and Environmental Science in 2010, Jared did not immediately come up with field work. Although his college studies encompassed such wide-ranging subjects as forest and wildlife resource management, Zoology, Botany, Ornithology and Freshwater Ecology, he began his career doing microbiology work indoors, in a lab.

 

Three years later, with great motivation to get outside, he moved from Virginia to the Pacific Northwest and went from volunteering at Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, to being hired on as staff. A super team of folks there, doing great work, prepared him for his next and current job, as the first employee of the Gorge Refuge Stewards.

 

Fully embracing the agenda of thoughtfully expanding the organization, Jared’s work before the pandemic focused on both stewardship and community outreach with volunteers. Then Covid made things very challenging. Next came the shuttering of Steigerwald for a 3-year restoration project. One door closes and another one opens.

Jared 5 Seasonal Gate/Steigerwald Lake NWR 2019/Photo by Beth Marlin Lichter

 

Jared came up with a plan, a change “from actual hands-on work to developing an organization and program that will be more inclusive when Steigerwald reopens.” He is really looking forward to seeing the results of all the work. As of May 1st, the refuge was once again welcoming visitors and at first glance, word has spread and people are excited.  Opening day visitors were plentiful, all ages, some in strollers, some with walking sticks, everyone enjoying a bit of sunshine on the trails.

 

As he stands at the new stone observation spot, looking up the mouth of the Gorge with Mt. Hood in the background, Jared professes his love for the place, and is clearly proud of the substantial role he gets to play in the future of the refuge, through his job with the Gorge Stewards. Important work.

 

What’s at stake? The health of the land and the ability to pass along to future generations, a place of beauty where wildlife thrives and where all people are welcome to come and walk and be a part of nature in peace and safety.  Jared Strawderman is hoping this pursuit of excellence in land preservation keeps the spark of volunteerism spreading throughout the community.

 

Simon Strawderman is already a keen observer and lover of open spaces. Jared says this about his young son: “I enjoy seeing the world through his eyes. He has enthusiasm for the smallest things, like bugs.” Being outdoors as a family is good for the development of kids and good for the sanity of parents!”

Jared 6

Simon Strawderman, Bug Observer

 

Guided by his parents, Jared and Nicole Strawderman, Simon is already volunteering as Steward of the Land. During his lifetime he will see the trees he planted at Steigerwald grow and provide habitat for birds and animals.

Jared 7

Simon Strawderman/Volunteer Tree Planting Crew/Steigerwald Lake NWR

 

Onward with his legion of devoted volunteers, Jared faces the next round of challenges, collaboration with partners such as Valadrian Creative and Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, working together to provide the best refuge experience possible for the greatest number of diverse communities in the area.

 

His agenda: Be community-focused, inclusive and collaborative. Now that the physical restoration work is nearly completed and the refuge is open again to the public, the focus shifts towards welcoming people back to a remarkable National Wildlife Refuge just outside the city of Portland, Oregon. It’s a work in progress that Jared Strawderman wholeheartedly embraces.

Jared 8

Jared Strawderman (Second from Right) With Volunteers On The New Levee at Steigerwald Lake NWR/Opening Day 5/1/2022

 

For information about volunteering opportunities email: Gorge Refuge Stewards


MAURICIO VALADRIAN AND THE POWER OF ENTHUSIASM

By Beth Marlin Lichter

Mauricio 01

Photo by Beth Marlin Lichter/Whitaker Ponds Natural Area/Portland, OR

 

Mauricio Valdrian grew up in Colombia, South America, in a city with little access to nature. When he was nineteen years old, he fled the civil war raging in his country, a dangerous and corrupt environment besieged by violence, a place where “death was a part of daily life.”

 

Yes, that was a rough start, but Mauricio says it was a gift, an opportunity as he builds a new life in Oregon, to look back at those circumstances with gratitude. “You move into a place where you appreciate everything that you have in front of you and learn to be grateful for very little things. I came equipped with a lens that permits me to stop and say, Oh my God, this is wonderful, absolutely everything around me I could only have dreamed about, back home where I grew up.”

 

At twenty, Mauricio found himself navigating the challenges of single fatherhood in the Pacific Northwest and he began to explore natural areas around him. The benefits of being outdoors, in parks and green spaces were immediately recognizable. Restorative, inspiring, invigorating. Something beautiful to share with his child and lots to learn about in the natural world. But not necessarily welcoming. Latinos, really all people of color, were largely absent from the landscape.

 

Valadrian joined the Board of Directors, acted as Chair and is now a member of the Advisory Board at Hike It Baby. Getting outside with other parents, caregivers and their kids, and together learning about and experiencing the natural world, was and still is for him, a potent antidote to the stressors of urban living.

 

Mauricio’s wife, Eva, grew up in Oregon and loves nature as much as he does. They have four children with whom they hike and explore. Each outing to a park or refuge is part learning experience/part admiration for the surroundings and gives rise to deeply satisfying feelings of belonging to a wild and beautiful place. Our children will be the next stewards of the land.

 

Mauricio and Eva jointly formed Valdrian Creative & Consulting. They are Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) champions. Their company’s aim is to “develop comprehensive marketing and outreach strategies with a focus on connecting underrepresented communities to public lands and natural spaces while working to improve the diversity and inclusivity of those spaces.” Also part of his professional landscape, Mauricio Valadrian occupies the position of Vice-Chair for the Oregon Conservation & Recreation Advisory Committee.

Mauricio 02

Mauricio and Family by the Sandy River in Oxbow Regional Park

 

A very significant project aimed at building connection between underrepresented communities and nature, is in development right now through a program that Valadrian created with the US Fish & WIldlife Service, called NW Family Daycation. This website’s objective is “to make it super easy for families, educators and community organizations who are trying to connect to nature, and to have tools and resources ready right away for this purpose.” For example, if a family is interested in an outdoor adventure around Portland, they can choose an itinerary that brings them to the top of an urban volcano, Mt. Tabor Park, and then over to its playground.

 

The project of significance referenced above is spearheaded by Valadrian and entails creating a NW Family Daycation itinerary with video, centered around a visit to Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which as of May 1st, 2022, is opening to the public after a 3-year-long revitalization effort. People of Color Outdoors (POCO) are co-designers of this Family Daycation outing. Their partnership is invaluable if one’s intention is to create a safe and welcoming experience for all.

 

Mauricio is a relationship-builder and believes that partnerships are built on trust. Trust happens when you listen to others and work together to get something started from the get-go. Brainstorming is a big component, but oftentimes, with the best intentions, projects just languish and fade away as folks strive for the perfect solution. According to Mauricio, there is no perfect. Initiate a mutually beneficial plan. Don’t be discouraged by mistakes…and they will happen because you are creating something without precedent. Be resilient and find ways to continue moving forward with open-hearted communication. He cautions, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

 

It’s a win-win situation when Mauricio Valadrian partners up with Jared Strawderman, Stewardship & Community Engagement Coordinator for the Gorge Refuge Stewards (Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake and Pierce NWRs). Both parties are DEI-driven, determined to connect underserved communities with nature. As Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge prepares to open its gates again, Jared is collaborating with partners in relationships he has cultivated, implementing ways of expanding the usage of the refuge as a safe, enjoyable and welcoming place for all. Mauricio is going after the same result and together they make a powerful team. Two energetic people working in different ways towards a common goal.

 

To be sure, Valdrian and Strawderman are cooking up some great plans for broad community involvement and festivities starting May 1st, celebrating the re-emergence of Steigerwald as an important urban refuge. Just a few miles from downtown Portland, but a world away. Check for updates at Gorge Refuge Stewards, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Valadrian Creative & Consulting.

 

“Birthing good into the world.” That is how Mauricio Valadrian describes his projects, his life work…driven by the power of enthusiasm.

Maricio 03

Photo taken by Eva Valdrian / Lake Klamath

JARED STRAWDERMAN: VOLUNTEER MAGNET

By Beth Marlin Lichter

Jarad 1

Jared Strawderman/Photo by Beth Marlin Lichter

 

Why do folks raise their hands to join one of Jared Strawderman’s committees? And note how quickly spaces filled up for his volunteer work crews, setting out to plant trees at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, in the mud! Watch partnerships develop and grow as he strives to accomplish his goals as Stewardship & Community Engagement Coordinator for the Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards. Strawderman is the only employee of this organization, his position curated under the auspices of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and their Urban Refuge Program. With great enthusiasm for the preservation and future of the Gorge Refuge System (Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake and Pierce National Wildlife Refuges), he has taken on multiple supervisory roles.

 

Duties include monitoring the maintenance of trails, roads and facilities at all three locations. Jared writes articles and reports, designs interpretive exhibits for refuge visitors, and creates programs for classrooms. For instance, in conjunction with the Oregon Zoo and Washington Department of Fish & WIldlife, he developed a middle school presentation on Western Pond Turtle Conservation at Pierce National Wildlife Refuge. Who knows, maybe one of those kids at one of those presentations, has been inspired to learn more about conservation and wildlife and will embark upon a career as Steward of the Land in one capacity or another.

 

Jared Strawderman describes himself as “passionate about environmental conservation, social justice, and facilitating people’s connection to nature in an equitable and inclusive way.” He forms partnerships, builds teams and programs to engender communication with individuals from various cultural, social, economic and political backgrounds. He is responsible for the creation of the Steigerwald Photography Group which meets every month, and is deeply committed to the development and ongoing efforts of a group he is curating, the Gorge Stewards’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

 

Starting out simply as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Gorge Refuge Stewards, it was soon apparent from the variety, complexity and number of roles he was taking on, that his job title needed to change. Strawderman has his eye on every aspect of refuge management and growth. Where does that depth of knowledge come from?

jared 2

Banding Pelicans at Pea Island NWR

 

He attributes his versatility to a great beginning, a summer internship at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island in North Carolina during his college years. Every week they rotated tasks, including maintenance, biology and visitor services. There was also an inspiring teacher of note, Jared’s ornithology instructor at school, whose love of wildlife was profound and enlightening.

 

Jared sits on multiple committees, initiating short and long-term goals, overseeing and working hands-on in so many capacities…how does he do it? With volunteers. He explains that the Gorge Refuge Stewards would not be an organization without them, and on his watch a comprehensive volunteer program is blossoming. He leads the recruitment, training, engagement, supervision and reporting of this program which includes but is not limited to the training of Trail Stewards, the ambassador volunteers who engage the public on behalf of the Gorge Refuges. Coordinating stewardship activities at Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake and Pierce National Wildlife Refuges also falls under his umbrella.

 

What drives his enthusiasm? “It’s the passion of the people who visit and the volunteers I work with. It’s motivating to see that energy for conservation.”

Jared 3 Jared Strawderman and Ambassador Volunteers On New Steigerwald Levee/Opening Day 5/1/1022

 

Jared was a Boy Scout, raised in a family that was “pretty outdoorsy”. Both parents are from the Shenandoah Valley where his Granddad owned a Christmas tree farm with a fishing pond. His grandfather was an avid backyard birdwatcher, with feeders on the property and books on birds, available for him to peruse. That interest definitely rubbed off on his grandson.

 

Growing up surfing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Jared was regularly exposed to a vast array of wildlife on protected land, which also accounts for his connection to the natural world. Sea Turtles nest on those beaches. Bottlenose Dolphins pop up to surf alongside you. Other inhabitants one might encounter are wild horses, bears, mink, foxes and yes, even alligators.

Jared 4 

Jared Surfing on the Outer Banks

 

Armed with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and Environmental Science in 2010, Jared did not immediately come up with field work. Although his college studies encompassed such wide-ranging subjects as forest and wildlife resource management, Zoology, Botany, Ornithology and Freshwater Ecology, he began his career doing microbiology work indoors, in a lab.

 

Three years later, with great motivation to get outside, he moved from Virginia to the Pacific Northwest and went from volunteering at Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, to being hired on as staff. A super team of folks there, doing great work, prepared him for his next and current job, as the first employee of the Gorge Refuge Stewards.

 

Fully embracing the agenda of thoughtfully expanding the organization, Jared’s work before the pandemic focused on both stewardship and community outreach with volunteers. Then Covid made things very challenging. Next came the shuttering of Steigerwald for a 3-year restoration project. One door closes and another one opens.

Jared 5 Seasonal Gate/Steigerwald Lake NWR 2019/Photo by Beth Marlin Lichter

 

Jared came up with a plan, a change “from actual hands-on work to developing an organization and program that will be more inclusive when Steigerwald reopens.” He is really looking forward to seeing the results of all the work. As of May 1st, the refuge was once again welcoming visitors and at first glance, word has spread and people are excited.  Opening day visitors were plentiful, all ages, some in strollers, some with walking sticks, everyone enjoying a bit of sunshine on the trails.

 

As he stands at the new stone observation spot, looking up the mouth of the Gorge with Mt. Hood in the background, Jared professes his love for the place, and is clearly proud of the substantial role he gets to play in the future of the refuge, through his job with the Gorge Stewards. Important work.

 

What’s at stake? The health of the land and the ability to pass along to future generations, a place of beauty where wildlife thrives and where all people are welcome to come and walk and be a part of nature in peace and safety.  Jared Strawderman is hoping this pursuit of excellence in land preservation keeps the spark of volunteerism spreading throughout the community.

 

Simon Strawderman is already a keen observer and lover of open spaces. Jared says this about his young son: “I enjoy seeing the world through his eyes. He has enthusiasm for the smallest things, like bugs.” Being outdoors as a family is good for the development of kids and good for the sanity of parents!”

Jared 6

Simon Strawderman, Bug Observer

 

Guided by his parents, Jared and Nicole Strawderman, Simon is already volunteering as Steward of the Land. During his lifetime he will see the trees he planted at Steigerwald grow and provide habitat for birds and animals.

Jared 7

Simon Strawderman/Volunteer Tree Planting Crew/Steigerwald Lake NWR

 

Onward with his legion of devoted volunteers, Jared faces the next round of challenges, collaboration with partners such as Valadrian Creative and Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, working together to provide the best refuge experience possible for the greatest number of diverse communities in the area.

 

His agenda: Be community-focused, inclusive and collaborative. Now that the physical restoration work is nearly completed and the refuge is open again to the public, the focus shifts towards welcoming people back to a remarkable National Wildlife Refuge just outside the city of Portland, Oregon. It’s a work in progress that Jared Strawderman wholeheartedly embraces.

Jared 8

Jared Strawderman (Second from Right) With Volunteers On The New Levee at Steigerwald Lake NWR/Opening Day 5/1/2022

 

For information about volunteering opportunities email: Gorge Refuge Stewards


MAURICIO VALADRIAN AND THE POWER OF ENTHUSIASM

By Beth Marlin Lichter

Mauricio 01

Photo by Beth Marlin Lichter/Whitaker Ponds Natural Area/Portland, OR

 

Mauricio Valdrian grew up in Colombia, South America, in a city with little access to nature. When he was nineteen years old, he fled the civil war raging in his country, a dangerous and corrupt environment besieged by violence, a place where “death was a part of daily life.”

 

Yes, that was a rough start, but Mauricio says it was a gift, an opportunity as he builds a new life in Oregon, to look back at those circumstances with gratitude. “You move into a place where you appreciate everything that you have in front of you and learn to be grateful for very little things. I came equipped with a lens that permits me to stop and say, Oh my God, this is wonderful, absolutely everything around me I could only have dreamed about, back home where I grew up.”

 

At twenty, Mauricio found himself navigating the challenges of single fatherhood in the Pacific Northwest and he began to explore natural areas around him. The benefits of being outdoors, in parks and green spaces were immediately recognizable. Restorative, inspiring, invigorating. Something beautiful to share with his child and lots to learn about in the natural world. But not necessarily welcoming. Latinos, really all people of color, were largely absent from the landscape.

 

Valadrian joined the Board of Directors, acted as Chair and is now a member of the Advisory Board at Hike It Baby. Getting outside with other parents, caregivers and their kids, and together learning about and experiencing the natural world, was and still is for him, a potent antidote to the stressors of urban living.

 

Mauricio’s wife, Eva, grew up in Oregon and loves nature as much as he does. They have four children with whom they hike and explore. Each outing to a park or refuge is part learning experience/part admiration for the surroundings and gives rise to deeply satisfying feelings of belonging to a wild and beautiful place. Our children will be the next stewards of the land.

 

Mauricio and Eva jointly formed Valdrian Creative & Consulting. They are Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) champions. Their company’s aim is to “develop comprehensive marketing and outreach strategies with a focus on connecting underrepresented communities to public lands and natural spaces while working to improve the diversity and inclusivity of those spaces.” Also part of his professional landscape, Mauricio Valadrian occupies the position of Vice-Chair for the Oregon Conservation & Recreation Advisory Committee.

Mauricio 02

Mauricio and Family by the Sandy River in Oxbow Regional Park

 

A very significant project aimed at building connection between underrepresented communities and nature, is in development right now through a program that Valadrian created with the US Fish & WIldlife Service, called NW Family Daycation. This website’s objective is “to make it super easy for families, educators and community organizations who are trying to connect to nature, and to have tools and resources ready right away for this purpose.” For example, if a family is interested in an outdoor adventure around Portland, they can choose an itinerary that brings them to the top of an urban volcano, Mt. Tabor Park, and then over to its playground.

 

The project of significance referenced above is spearheaded by Valadrian and entails creating a NW Family Daycation itinerary with video, centered around a visit to Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which as of May 1st, 2022, is opening to the public after a 3-year-long revitalization effort. People of Color Outdoors (POCO) are co-designers of this Family Daycation outing. Their partnership is invaluable if one’s intention is to create a safe and welcoming experience for all.

 

Mauricio is a relationship-builder and believes that partnerships are built on trust. Trust happens when you listen to others and work together to get something started from the get-go. Brainstorming is a big component, but oftentimes, with the best intentions, projects just languish and fade away as folks strive for the perfect solution. According to Mauricio, there is no perfect. Initiate a mutually beneficial plan. Don’t be discouraged by mistakes…and they will happen because you are creating something without precedent. Be resilient and find ways to continue moving forward with open-hearted communication. He cautions, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

 

It’s a win-win situation when Mauricio Valadrian partners up with Jared Strawderman, Stewardship & Community Engagement Coordinator for the Gorge Refuge Stewards (Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake and Pierce NWRs). Both parties are DEI-driven, determined to connect underserved communities with nature. As Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge prepares to open its gates again, Jared is collaborating with partners in relationships he has cultivated, implementing ways of expanding the usage of the refuge as a safe, enjoyable and welcoming place for all. Mauricio is going after the same result and together they make a powerful team. Two energetic people working in different ways towards a common goal.

 

To be sure, Valdrian and Strawderman are cooking up some great plans for broad community involvement and festivities starting May 1st, celebrating the re-emergence of Steigerwald as an important urban refuge. Just a few miles from downtown Portland, but a world away. Check for updates at Gorge Refuge Stewards, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Valadrian Creative & Consulting.

 

“Birthing good into the world.” That is how Mauricio Valadrian describes his projects, his life work…driven by the power of enthusiasm.

Maricio 03

Photo taken by Eva Valdrian / Lake Klamath