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Q&A with the new executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, a former exec with The Natural Conservancy

Meet Russ Hoeflich, the new executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Pamplin Media Group mined Hoeflich's decades of experience with conservation advocacy to learn about the challenges and solutions facing our region.

Pamplin Media Group: How do you define the role of 1000 Friends?

Russ Hoeflich: Healthy communities and healthy environments are interwoven, and I see 1000 Friends as being the nexus between the two. Meeting the needs of our forestland owners, ranchers and ag owners has always been central to the mission of the organization.

PMG: You've been all across the country. How is Oregon different?

Hoeflich: We have a series of river networks and a series of natural areas that are connected. That allows for the natural migration of species. (They're) able to move and thrive without crossing major roadways.

That's the result of the passage of Senate Bill 100 back in the early '70s. You don't see that in a lot of other states.

PMG: What else do we have going for us?

Hoeflich: Oregon is fortunate (because) it is one of the most biologically diverse places in the nation. And we have made a decision as a state to value and protect our natural resources (while also) balancing the needs of the people and the needs of fish and wildlife.

PMG: What are the challenges?

Hoeflich: Climate change and carbon reduction. We are challenged as a state, and anything we can do to help meet our targets — from electric cars to buses — is going to be really, really helpful.

PMG: Any thoughts on Oregon's forest policies?

Hoeflich: As a result of fire suppression and human intervention, we have very, very overstocked forests that are vulnerable to catastrophic loss. And whether we like it or not, we have placed a lot of homes proximate to these forest zones.

PMG: So what's the solution?

Hoeflich: We have a situation where the forest will burn, and it will burn in a condition that is hotter than what has (occurred) historically. Or, we can, in fact, thin them and allow them to regenerate. It's a win-win solution.

PMG: You support House Bill 3249, which creates a fund for agricultural land use. What do you like about it?

Hoeflich: We need to make the investments to allow ranchland, farmland and forestland to move from one generation to the next, and assist ranchers and farmers in that process.

These are very difficult times from a budgetary (standpoint), but they are contemplating a $4.2 million revenue package as part of this effort.

PMG: What about House Bill 2007, which speeds up the review process for housing development?

Hoeflich: Basically, it addresses the issues of affordability, the challenges of getting building permits in a timely manner (plus) the strengthening of clear objectives.

It touches so many communities. I was very impressed.

PMG: What other programs do you like in the private sector?

Hoeflich: The University of Portland offers its employees (an incentive) when you live within certain zones proximate to the school. They will give you an incentive to live within that walking distance — that biking distance — and help you buy your first home.

I want to understand that policy better and see if there are ways to replicate that.

PMG: Anything else?

Hoeflich: It's an exciting time to be in Oregon. There's a lot at stake. I see this as such a critical growth area to be in this state and to be able to protect and defend what we have.

Just the facts

Name: Russ Hoeflich

Age: 62

Education: Earned undergraduate degrees in biology and environmental science, plus a master's in environmental management.

Last job: Executive director of The Peregrine Fund. He has spent decades working with the Nature Conservancy in various positions.

Family: His wife, Bonnie Kittleson, is an oncology nurse practitioner in Portland. They have two adult children.

Favorite bird: The western meadowlark. "It used to be found in every county of the state," Hoeflich says. "I love it."

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