BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Powder Basin Watershed Council consists of members from local, regional, state, federal, and private interest groups and depends widely on a diverse membership base to effectively support our local communities. With the help and expertise of many volunteers and dedication of Board members, the Council is able to achieve its mission to promote, restore, and enhance the health of the watershed through the cooperation of all stakeholders. Among the affiliates of the Council, James M. Young stands out for his long-term commitment as Council member and acting Vice President of the Powder Basin Watershed Council Board of Directors.
Young, often referred to as “Jim” by fellow council members, represents the spirit and purpose of the Council in his work and personal life, in that stewardship and hard work are deeply ingrained in his values. Jim was born and raised in Pine Valley on an 189 acre farm next door to his current home near Halfway, Oregon. His mother Dolores Young née Huff is the daughter of Gladys Huff née Oliver, a Pine Valley 1870’s pioneering homesteader whom Oliver Road is named after.
When Young graduated from Pine Valley High School in 1967, he was appointed to the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New
York. He reflects on his time in the Marine Academy, “I saw the Atlantic Ocean before the Pacific Ocean...I spent one year in New York and another sailing the Pacific Ocean.” After traveling the world, Young returned to Eastern Oregon where he studied Biology at Eastern Oregon University.
An avid fisherman and outdoorsmen, Young has always embodied a certain curiosity and love for nature. He recalls his fondest childhood memory: “My first fascination with nature occurred when I was about eight years old. I was lying on my stomach on my Aunt Ella's bridge over East Pine Creek staring at a pair of steelhead fining in the clear water below me. My mother had told me they had swum upstream all the way from the ocean. It opened up a wider world to me. I chased and watched salmon and steelhead in the streams of Pine Valley until 1967 when the Hells Canyon dam blocked them from Pine Creek.” His fascination for biology and nature is what eventually informed his career pathway.
Receiving his BS in 1982, Young became a Natural Resource Manager with the USDA Forest Service where he could work in nature while performing valuable duties for his surrounding community and the natural world. During this time, he acted in many jobs including; firefighting, multiple resource inventory, engineering survey and road construction, timber management and sale administration, range/grazing management, fish and wildlife management and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance.
Jim became a member of the Powder Basin Watershed Council in 2002, originally, as a representative from the Pine District Forest Service. At that time he was filling in behind the Pine District Hydrologist, Mark Fedora, who had been involved in the original council organization, the Baker County Water Advisory Board, since 1991. He explains why he was initially drawn the Council,
“We both supported ecosystem management on the watershed scale and saw the Council as a place where all the stakeholders in a watershed could come together to coordinate work across ownership boundaries. Our successful completion of watershed and subbasin assessments has given us the tools to accomplish coordinated work on an ecosystem scale.”
In 2007, Young retired from the Forest Service but decided to continue with his work in the Council because he felt that “the Council is the only organization in Baker County that provides a neutral place where all the different interest groups (private landowner, state, and federal land managers, county and local governments, regulatory agencies, resource users, and preservationists) can come together to support projects.” In 2008, the Council transitioned from the Baker County Watershed to the non-profit 501(c)(3) it is today, and Young took over as a member of the Board of Directors in 2012.
Since the change of the Council’s organizational structure, Young would like to see PBWC use its strengths as an efficient project development and implementation entity to attract new ideas, people and funding for projects that are effective on a watershed/ecosystem scale. He explains that “There are many organizations in Baker County that represent local natural resource interests (Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Irrigation Districts, Mining Associations, Livestock Associations, Timber Associations) or serve local interests (Farm Services Administration, NRCS, County Extension Service). Local interests and viewpoints are not necessarily the same as regional or national viewpoints. The council is a place where these opposing desires can find a consensus or compromise at the local level. If Baker County does not find a path acceptable to the people outside Baker County, then their viewpoint will be imposed on us. The Powder Basin Watershed Council is the only organization in Baker County that can provide a place to reach that consensus.”
Today Young is an amateur botanist and member of the Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) and finds himself pondering about the inner workings of ecosystems. He coauthored the 2012 Brownlee Subbasin Assessment and chaired of the oversight committee for the Pine Creek Reconnaissance Report. Soon he will be writing a monthly column on the hydrology of Pine Creek for the Hells Canyon Journal. He has many goals for the Powder Basin Watershed Council and would like to see people who have a passion about the natural world and making a difference in their community to find their place on the board with him.
When asked about why others might want to join the Council, Young states, “Those whose livelihood or work depends on natural resources should be on the board to promote their self-interest. The healthier watersheds mean more natural resources for users. People who are curious about the natural world can learn more as a board member and about the watersheds of our region.”
Lastly, Young hopes to preserve the watershed well into the future, recalling his earlier childhood memory on East Pine Creek, “I want to see salmon and steelhead back in these streams. I hope my grandchildren will be able to lie on that bridge and experience that same wonder.”