Zola Ryan, District Conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service
“As a society, we rely on private landowners for food, fiber, open space, wildlife habitat, hunting opportunities, and their contribution to our local, state, and national economy. But society also has a lot of expectations and asks a lot of private landowners. Keep water clean, use it as efficiently as possible, don’t let your soil wash or blow away, protect wetlands, provide habitat, control weeds, conserve energy, don’t be too loud, stinky, or dusty. When I do my job, I’m helping private landowners meet their own individual and business goals, and helping them to meet the needs and wants of society.” As shared by Zola Ryan; Zola is a District Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and an active volunteer with the Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative (HBWI).
NRCS is a federal agency within the United States Department of Agriculture that works with private landowners to help them implement conservation projects on their private lands. Since 2005 Zola has worked with NRCS: “I work with local farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners to develop conservation plans to address natural resource issues on their property, and often develop financial assistance agreements to help fund implementation of the plans developed as well.”
Land resource issues are complex and in Harney County lessons have been and are being learned about working together to address these complex land resource issues. The Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative is one local collaborative group made up of volunteers from all walks of life. Zola herself became involved “when the NRCS Local Work Group for Harney County identified invasive common carp as a priority resource concern to be addressed. Then Intermountain West Joint Venture and Ducks Unlimited began having conversations with Oregon NRCS about the importance of maintaining flood irrigated wet meadow habitats for spring migration staging habitat in the Pacific Flyway. (The Pacific Flyway is a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in America and the Harney Basin is a critical ‘rest stop’ providing a place for birds to rest and refuel during their long journeys.) Both of these issues are priorities for HBWI. As a range person working on aquatic and wetland wildlife issues, I rely heavily on the expertise of my partners in HBWI! Through its work, HBWI is helping Harney County maintain certain floodplain functions, improve flood irrigation infrastructure, maintain or improve productivity for farmers and ranchers, improve ecological conditions in Malheur Lake, and improve habitat conditions for birds and native fish.”
Zola is passionate about her work with NRCS and her volunteer work with HBWI. She was born and raised in Harney County and with her husband is now raising her own family in Harney County. “I love the people, the landscape, the lifestyle. I love raising my kids here. I love that they get to spend lots of time with their grandparents. I love that I was able to take them out to the cemetery at Silver Creek a couple weeks ago and show them where their great-grandparents, their great-great-grandparents and their great-great-great-grandparents are buried.”
Between work and being a mom one of the next favorite things on Zola’s list is SLEEPING! “I really enjoy sleeping! But also, gardening, camping, hunting, reading, cross-stitch, and lots of activities with my church family.”