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Dustin Johnson, Range Scientist with Oregon State University Extension Services

Convener, facilitator, researcher, educator, student, mentor, mentee, coordinator, technical advisor, writer, representative and leader are just a few of the roles Dustin has had over the years as a Range Scientist with Oregon State University Extension Services ( Extension Service extends the University’s resources to communities throughout Oregon.) “First things first, there is absolutely not a typical day in Extension. This can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time because each day is different . . . Experience helps, but probably most helpful to me has been tapping into the diverse expertise among my colleagues within and outside of Extension when I, myself, don’t have all the answers . . ."

The work that Dustin does day in and day out is very similar to what he does as a volunteer on High Desert Partnership’s board and with the Harney County Wildfire Collaborative and Harney Basin Wetland Initiative collaborative; “ . . . we in [OSU] Extension are placed in communities to help develop opportunities and address challenges in ways that promote community resiliency.  . . . this work contains economic, social, and ecological elements of community resiliency that must be considered and reconciled.”

To provide a sense for Dustin’s work and the contribution he’s making to Harney County consider this question: How do we manage our water resources for sustained and balanced beneficial uses in a system that is crazy variable and, by the way, we know very little about? Not an easy question to answer and answering this involves working with large and diverse groups of stakeholders, multiple uses, interests and values, adaptive management approaches, numerous information sources, collaborative research, and process stewards like High Desert Partnership. “I think 'extension' has always played a role in responding to questions like this, but the emphasis has shifted because the need for our service has changed given the problems communities are trying to solve. . . . I think having real, lasting impact requires climbing into the trenches with the communities we serve to collaboratively address complex problems.”

“I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point. It may sound corny, but I feel I’m at the point in my career where I’m contributing to efforts, much larger than me or my specific programs, that are either currently or will eventually create lasting and positive change in terms of community resiliency. I’m doing so by working with extremely talented and dedicated people that I enjoy very much, and by focusing on issues that I care about and are important to my community.”

Dustin came to Burns in 2003 with his wife after finishing his masters at Oregon State. “I feel the Harney County community is one of the best kept secrets in the state. I really can’t imagine living anywhere else. I couldn’t be prouder of my community and the resiliency it has demonstrated in face of a myriad of significant challenges. Our community has demonstrated an unmatched willingness to consistently choose communication and collaboration over contention to address those challenges. Look around, this doesn’t happen in many other places…Harney County is a special place. Harney County nearly perfectly suits my family’s lifestyle. Man, what a place to live if you enjoy public lands and recreating in the outdoors like we do. As such, our kids are able to gain experiences they simply would not have access to in other places. We love raising our family here.”

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