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If anyone loves Eastern Oregon, it’s Nancy Rorick. After residing in many towns across the Country- Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, and Portland, she chose to make her home here in the heart of the Powder Basin- Baker City. She speaks fondly of the scenic Oregon desert and big open spaces, her love of the culture of the intermountain West, and how she feels the most comfortable when she can see for miles…  but most of all Nancy explains, “Eastern Oregon has always been the place I call home.” For Nancy, this feeling runs much deeper than open spaces, home has been here in Eastern Oregon for more than six generations. In fact, just outside of Hereford, her great great great grandmother, Hannah Diven, is buried on a small ranch and many of her other pioneer relatives can be found in the Malheur Cemetery.


Nancy grew up in Nyssa, Oregon, a small town south of Ontario. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona and graduate school at Southern Illinois University she went on to lead a long career in the environmental field. Finally returning to Eastern Oregon, she felt it was time to give back to her community.


In the spirit of giving back, Nancy joined the Powder Basin Watershed Council in 2014 serving as the Council Chair for two years until the

most recent reelection in February 2016. As the Council chair, she oversaw the nonprofit’s administration and staff, providing guidance for Council projects and restoration opportunities. Her technical expertise and wisdom of the local ecosystem makes her a unique and much appreciated asset to the Council. Meghan Rorick, Council Monitoring Coordinator, reflects on Nancy’s value to the Council “Nancy is one of the hardest working and smartest people I know, but also, she is genuinely nice and good at what she does, so people respect her.”


Under her hard work and guidance, the Council has completed several projects, including her contributions to the Brownlee Subbasin Watershed Assessment where she acted as a contractor and lead author on the assessment. She has watched the Council grow over the years, noting that “we now have established successful programs for water quality monitoring, education and outreach, and have completed several restoration projects” but as a goal for the organization she desires “to see more community involvement in the form of increased membership and interest.”


When asked why she joined the Council, she expounds “I feel that the Watershed Council’s approach to solving problems with local community involvement outside of the regulatory framework is really the only way to improve watershed health.” During this very unique time in history, with regard to local land management, Nancy is not alone. Many basin residents and ranchers wish to approach watershed issues outside of government regulatory agencies, and using the Council as a neutral forum may be the way to accomplish this.


The Council diverged from the County, becoming a non-profit in 2008, which, as Nancy explains, “makes the organization in a position to really start benefitting the community…. the one thing I have learned as Chair, is that the Council makes better decisions when we have a diversity of opinions and backgrounds involved in the decision-making. The more people who are involved, the greater our potential to benefit our watershed health and our local economy.” Her goals mirror the Council mission: to promote, restore, and enhance the health of the watersheds through the cooperation of all stakeholders. “The Council now consists of ranchers, state, and federal employees from land management agencies, and urban residents.” In fact, the Council contributes an estimated $250,000 annually to the local economy, funding three full-time positions, and three Summer internship positions. Nancy suggests that in order to “continue this work, we need community involvement.”

In fact, because the Council is a non-profit, it relies on the many volunteers and commitments from community members all over the basin to complete water quality monitoring, outreach, and restoration projects. In 2015 alone, approximately, 716.75 volunteer hours were logged across various programs, totaling $17,080.90 in added value for the Council.


As for the future of the Council, Nancy notes that the Council “has collected data and prepared watershed assessments showing where on the ground projects are needed,” and further she “would like to see the Council going forward on these projects with broad community support including the agricultural community, urban residents, and the land management agencies.” Most importantly, the Council needs people like Nancy who wish to see the region thrive and prosper, both in terms of environmental health and economic health. As our Council slogan reminds us, change in the community can occur when we are working as part of the solution and in order to do so we need the whole community to work together.

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