Slowing the effects of climate change a priority for new Oregon watershed manager

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Lisa Charpilloz-Hanson learns best in the field, so the new director of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board found herself, the first month on the job, standing on a bridge in Tillamook watching salmon and rainbow trout. – rainbow swim upstream. In his new role, Charpilloz-Hanson now has a hand in spending $ 170 million each year on projects that improve fish and wildlife habitat in Oregon’s waterways. The money, issued in the form of grants, comes from state lottery profits, the sale of salmon license plates, and federal funding.

One of the council’s grants paid for the Tillamook Bridge, which replaced a culvert that prevented fish from moving freely. Charpilloz-Hanson wanted to see for herself what dollars had made possible.

“Whenever I see a project and am surrounded by people doing the work, I can’t help but get excited,” she said.

Charpilloz-Hanson took on the new role in November and heads an 18-member board of directors from state and federal natural resource agencies, tribes, conservation organizations and the public. They meet four times a year to decide which watershed conservation and restoration projects to fund and to establish a long-term strategy for the health of Oregon’s rivers and streams.

Charpilloz-Hanson advances to governor-appointed post after 20 years in the Oregon Department of Agriculture and years in food processing. In each of his roles, Charpilloz-Hanson has relied on field trips.

In those early years, when working as a sales representative for Green Giant, the frozen and canned vegetable company, Charpilloz-Hanson would travel to asparagus farms in eastern Washington to meet with farmers, learn about their use of pesticides, inspect their crops and enforce standards. . The company sent her one summer to live in Montgomery, Minnesota, a town of about 3,000 people, to work the corn harvest and help with the processing plant.

She appreciated the opportunity to understand, first-hand, every part of the system from start to finish.

“I wanted to gain this experience and diversify my background,” she said.

Rural roots

Charpilloz-Hanson grew up on a farm in the rural unincorporated community of Monitor, between Woodburn and Mt. Angel. The farm was not her parents’ main source of income – they both worked at other jobs – but the family grew a variety of crops and this prompted her to study agriculture and economics in Oregon State University.

After graduating in 1989, she accepted the position at Green Giant and worked with the Washington AgForestry Leadership Program to help farmers and foresters develop their knowledge and skills in public policy, and to teach how these policies have an impact on society, the environment and natural resources.

“I think this is really one of the places where my interest has been piqued in terms of public service,” she said. This made him want to “work on public policies that really have an impact on the larger image of people and natural resources and their intersection.”

She returned to Oregon to work in the state Department of Agriculture, managing the department’s commodity commission program, which oversees 22 groups of growers, farmers, and public officials who make fiduciary decisions on everything. , from commercial fish to grains.

Awarding an award for his services to the Ministry of Agriculture, his bosses wrote that Charpilloz-Hanson worked at “almost every level of the department.” She eventually moved up to the principal’s office, where she worked as an assistant principal for 16 years.

Charpilloz-Hanson applied for the director position in 2016, but Gov. Kate Brown eventually appointed Alexis Taylor, who previously headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s agriculture and trade program in developing countries.

Charpilloz-Hanson continued to serve as deputy manager under Taylor.

She said there were a handful of agencies that she had always kept in mind as well as others that she would like to work for.

She said to herself, “If the opportunity to lead them came to fruition, I wanted to throw my hat in the ring.

One of them was the Watershed Enhancement Board. She applied and waited. Charpilloz-Hanson was confirmed by the Senate in November for a four-year term.

Leadership on controversial issues

Announcing Charpilloz-Hanson as her nominee, Brown said Charpilloz-Hanson was chosen for “her leadership in controversial natural resources and regulatory issues”.

She oversaw the regulation and application of agricultural fertilizers, pesticides and confined animal feeding operations. She created a compliance program for agricultural water quality in the state, controversial because it was voluntary and because it was overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture, not the Ministry of Quality. the environment. She spent 14 years as a legislative liaison between the Ministry of Agriculture and state politicians, working on policy issues relating to natural resources, including many issues affecting the quality and quantity of agricultural water in the Klamath basin.

“Working in the field of natural resources is really complicated,” she said. “It seems that if you solve one problem, it impacts something else. So there’s always that kind of push-pull kind of stuff and so, you know, being creative and identifying workable solutions can be incredibly difficult.

Barbara Boyer, a hay farmer from McMinnville, is co-chair of the Water Enhancement Board. She said the ability to identify viable solutions across a wide range of interests will be one of the great challenges that Charpilloz-Hanson will face in her new role.

“She will focus on learning the business from all of the OWEB partners,” Boyer said of the various watershed councils, state agencies and nonprofits vying for the council money. administration. “She has a lot to learn and she can do it.”

Boyer has known Charpilloz-Hanson for around 15 years, working on various committees and boards, including around 10 years on the State Agriculture Council, which advises the Agriculture Ministry on policy matters.

“These restoration projects are huge,” Boyer said of what the Watershed Enhancement Board is undertaking, “and I see her getting so excited.”

Prioritize projects to fight climate change

Among the projects Charpilloz-Hanson and the board want to undertake in the coming year, she said mitigating the effects of climate change was a priority.

“Thinking about agriculture and working land, which also includes forestry, and how they play a role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, and where we can invest the most profitable in these domains, ”she said. .

She wants to invest money in Oregon’s Agricultural Heritage Program, which encourages farmers to put up easements on their land that allow farming to continue but no further development. Obtaining such easements often requires payments or tax incentives, and so far the four-year program has received no funding.

Jan Lee is the executive director of the Oregon Conservation Districts Association, where she represents 45 local soil and water conservation districts. She worked with Charpilloz-Hanson at the Agriculture Department on water quality issues and said she was delighted to have taken on the role. The two will work closely together, as Lee’s organization competes for grants from the Watershed Enhancement Board.

“We want a carbon sequestration program. It’s important to us, ”said Lee.

She wants the board to create grants to help watershed councils procure technical staff who can help farmers and foresters implement and monitor projects on their lands that sequester carbon.

“At the moment there is none,” she said.

Vanessa Green is Executive Director of the Network of Oregon Watershed Councils. She represents 59 watershed councils across the state, which are made up of volunteers who assess the conditions of their local community’s watersheds and create projects and plans to protect and restore them.

She will also be running for these grants and said when she and Lee learned that Charpilloz-Hanson had been nominated: “Jan was like ‘we won’.”

Lee and Green want the board to focus on efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“Number one – watershed councils are interested in climate change,” Green said.

“We want to work together to conserve water and plan for wildfires, plant native drought tolerant plants, and plan for temperature reduction in riparian habitats when we develop restoration projects,” Green said.

Charpilloz-Hanson also wants to focus on keeping agricultural runoff out of the water and making sure watersheds are part of efforts to keep drinking water for communities.

“I am thinking about the quality of water in general and drinking water for people, as well as what we can do to prevent pollution of farmland and working land and how the OWEB’s money is put on the floor, ”she said.

Charpilloz-Hanson herself is still a farmer and she and her family raise sheep not far from where she grew up in Monitor.

“There are really three things that I have done in the past 20+ years,” she said. “My family, my career and the farm.

Charpilloz-Hanson has been in the post for about two and a half months so far. She organized a board meeting and made several field trips to visit soil and water conservation districts and watershed councils.

“I feel really lucky,” she said of her new role. “I feel like I hit the lottery.”

Alex Baumhardt | Chronicle of the capital of Oregon

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