by Paul DeMarco
If you’ve been following this blog, many of the talents and projects of our stewardship crew and On the Land staff are quite apparent. A partial list of projects would include public access, fish surveys, historic buildings and artifacts, wetlands restoration, kayak tours, summer camps, fire recovery, fire ecology, fences, local history, wildlife corridors, grazing, geology, road and culvert repair, bridge work (non-dental), mapping, botany, red-legged frogs and mountain lions. Not to mention writing and photography.
They work with ranchers, engineers, builders, ecologists, neighbors, botanists, conservation partners, politicians, attorneys, county planners, housecleaners, farmers, funders and regulators.
It probably looks like a dream job, doesn’t it? Aside from the ticks, poison oak, cold, wet, heat, the occasional querulous neighbor, tight deadlines, difficult decisions, limited funding and the self-driving ambitions that create two-year work plans to be completed in 12 months.
I’ve had a unique view of these people and their work. They come into the office, perhaps trailing a whiff of tarweed or crumbles of mud, sometimes making a beeline for the Technu, and now they’re here for the inside work: grant reports, budgets, work plans, grant applications, staff meetings, project meetings and department meetings. They’ve come to me and my staff with questions about insurance, contracts, invoices, leases, charge cards, temporary employees, tick testing, truck-buying, ATV training and prevailing wage compliance.
Observing such diverse and ever-changing tasks, I can identify the key characteristics required: hard work, perseverance, creativity, intelligence, dedication and improvisation. They love their work and their work is far more about engaging with people than one might expect. And they’re good at that, too.
Whatever the sociologists and pundits say, we’ve found these exemplary traits in people of any age. Our stewardship job postings receive the most applications and from the most highly qualified and overqualified of people. Our society has somehow, despite all of the bitter political fights over the content of public education, produced a strong supply of job candidates who want to care for the earth. (Unfortunately, the society has an undersupply of paid positions for that work.) An “entry level” person here has probably spent years as an intern, volunteer and temporary employee wherever they could find the work.
So this, as I move to retirement, is my thanks and acknowledgment to them, and to you readers who support them.
And it’s also an acknowledgment to my colleagues who don’t get out much on the land. These are the folks in development, administration, acquisitions (they get out far less than you might suspect, as title reports, parcel maps and grant applications are best handled indoors), communications and especially, given my own bias, finance, who stand behind our public programs and provide a rock-solid organization that can meet and embrace the challenges as they come.
I’ve spent far more hours indoors than I care to remember. Ironic, yes, given our mission and my preferences. But “blessed is the man who has found his work,” as the saying goes.
I’m grateful for the best colleagues I’ve ever had or could imagine, grateful that I could be a part of such fine work and thankful to those of you who generously support it.
Favorite Sonoma Land Trust memories
Paul DeMarco was the director of finance and administration for Sonoma Land Trust for nine years.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.