“Hi, I’m Brenda. Nice to meet you”! I’ve probably said some variation of this half a thousand times this week, as I’m meeting new people every day. We kicked off the first day with a staff meeting between Fish and Wildlife, and The Friends of the Refuge (FOR), where I was able to meet everyone and hear about all the exciting projects they’re working on. This day was packed with introductions; soon after the staff meeting we made our way to the Univision KUNP station in Portland. Finally we finished off this long day by meeting some biologists from the University of Washington that were surveying Brooke Lamprey populations in the refuge. I enjoyed meeting all these different people and hearing them talk about their passions.
Unlike talking about passions and hobbies, talking about race is a much more difficult subject. From personal experience as well as speaking to my friends, I know that it can be hard to speak about racial issues within the environmental movement. Yet the people from Intertwine, a collaborative group that works to unify environmental organizations, were really making efforts to diversify and bring these issues to the table. I appreciated that no one spoke over the people of color and instead listened to what they had to say. These conversations can be hard to have, but knowing that there are so many people that are involved in making a difference motivates me to continue working on these issues.
Finally what I’ve been waiting for all week, I spent some time getting to know the Tualatin Refuge. For being a small refuge in an urban area, the refuge is remarkably beautiful with a wide range of habitat. Primarily wetland, the refuge also has oak savannas, ponds, and a section with riparian forest. Members of FOR led a nature walk and taught Lily and I about the refuge’s history and wildlife. Even after years of walking through the refuge, they always seem excited about what they see and continue to learn new things. I’ve picked up so much information on just one walk, that I’m sure I’ll never cease to be amazed by the refuge