By Victoria Hutfilz
Viewing our watershed through the lens of a natural resources student and Sandy River Watershed Council intern provides certainty that one person can make a difference in their community- however small. For me, that difference came in the form of providing information to the public via social media. For many, Instagram, Facebook, etc. provide a good chunk of their source of news and an inlet for inspiration. Working for SRWC’s media team served as a way to expand my working knowledge of natural resources, apply that information to the real world and reflect it back onto the public who can then choose to make their community a cleaner, safer and more beautiful place to live.
I am currently entering my second year as a Natural Resources student at Mt. Hood Community College with a focus on forestry. So far, classes have taken me through topics like native plant identification, wildland fire technique, how to measure a forest and even a dabble in soil science. A working internship while in school encourages students to put that information to work and get real-time boots-on-the-ground experience with natural resources at work in their community. I signed up to volunteer with SRWC back in the fall of 2020 for a rain garden construction event on the campus. It was one of my first experiences practicing watershed stewardship and after that, I knew I had chosen the right career path. Fast-forward to the spring and it was time to look for summer internships. News that SRWC was looking for help piqued my interest and after reconnecting with Sara, the interim director who I’d met onsite at the rain garden, we decided it was a good fit!
How do watershed processes fit in with forestry, you ask? More than you might think. Trees share a unique relationship with our water sources. Landscape changes have a significant impact on stream health and what we do on or to the land affects both the quantity and quality of water. Trees, forests and plants play an incredible role in reducing stormwater and erosion as well as removing or filtering pollutants that would otherwise end up in our waterways. Involving myself in the local movement to protect our watershed just seemed like another role of the responsible forester.
As the new school year approaches and my internship comes to an end, I am humbled to know so much more about the effort it takes from many people, partnerships and communities to care for and manage our watershed. In the past, the Sandy River was just a beautiful place to swim and fish, but now I recognize it as a vital resource, a mother of tributaries and above all an ever evolving wellspring that we must all collaborate to protect.
[Below: One of the many social media posts Victoria helped to create about Watershed Council projects]