Protecting, connecting and restoring the Washington's Central Cascades forests is part of James Shroeder's work with The Nature Conservancy.

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James Schroeder

What do you do? I work for The Nature Conservancy! I lead a team that works to protect, connect and restore the Central Cascades forests. These forests are a tremendous asset to Washingtonians, providing world-class recreation and incredible habitat for fish and wildlife, and they are the economic foundation for local communities. Recently, we bought almost 48,000 acres of forest between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum. Now, we are creating our management plan for this property so that we can restore the forest to health.

How did you get that job? I have worked in the environmental field in Washington for almost 20 years, and conservation is my passion. I went to graduate school for degrees in environmental policy and biology, and then I started working for state and local governments to develop management plans for rivers and salmon. I started at The Nature Conservancy working in freshwater and salmon conservation, but it is all connected. Protecting and restoring the forests is a critical element to ensuring we have enough water and habitat for fish, wildlife and for people!

What’s a typical day like? I work with a lot of partners across the state, and I go to a lot of meetings! But with our big purchase of forests in the East Cascades, I have been spending a lot of time meeting with people in Cle Elum, Roslyn and Ellensburg who depend on these forests for their way of life. As we begin writing our management plan for this land, I want to know what people value and love about this land. We want the forests we have protected to be an asset to the communities. So, I talk to a lot of people. On a good day, I might also get to hike in the forest and see some incredible views of the Cascades!

What’s the best part of the job? I love working on a team that is trying to protect and restore this incredible landscape. The East Cascades forests are an hour from Seattle, and you can still find wild places, beautiful views and wildlife like salmon, wolves and mountain goats. I like meeting different people who value this landscape for different reasons. That is inspiring to me. Some of my best days have been spent out in the forests with people who love the land and want to show it to me. How cool is that?

What surprises people about your work? People are surprised that The Nature Conservancy cuts down trees and that we have a team of foresters! But, in the East Cascades, we need to thin the forests to reduce the threat of wildfire and return the forest to a more normal, resilient condition. That is a big part of responsible land management. Some people are surprised that we don’t just “lock up” the land and keep people out. In fact, for conservation to be successful, we need people to care about the land. For people to care, they need to see and understand the beauty of these forests.

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