Celebrating Past and Future Impacts for Freshwater: Staff Reflections

May 10, 2023

The Freshwater Trust’s history is long and winding. It started with advocacy and litigation. Monumental protections for salmonid species were won by our founders — including the listing of the first Pacific salmon species under the Endangered Species Act. Yet what we are most proud of is our ability to adapt and innovate as the scale of our water quality and quantity problems has grown. The Freshwater Trust is not comfortable with the status quo. We are not here to stay in business or simply do good work. We exist to fix critically important problems that are growing in scale and significance, and it’s with that laser focus that we have brought new tools to the table over the last four decades.

In advance of Immerse 2023 and our 40th anniversary, we asked a few staff members of varying tenure what kinds of evolutions they’ve seen during their time at the organization. 

“It has been the highlight of my tenure at The Freshwater Trust to watch the organization grow and bring in additional talent. Stepping into such a motivated group of innovators showed me how very high the bar had been set, and it’s been a wonderful challenge to find the right folks to join our work. I am proud of the team TFT has put together and colleagues who work to stretch their skill sets and grow into even more impressive professionals. I hope to see the org continue to be an employer of choice among top professionals in the field and am excited to help our current staff grow and thrive in their careers at TFT.”

–Lauren Mittelman, People and Culture Manager, 2 years with TFT 

“The work and mission of The Freshwater Trust (and Oregon Trout before it) were a prominent passion in my family starting in the 1980s, and they proved to be a guiding force in my education and career trajectory. My career path came full circle when I joined TFT in 2014. Over the past nine years I have watched our team and our work grow, and I continue to be wowed and inspired by the dedication and creativity of every single one of my colleagues. In the past decade, we have come so far in the sophistication of our analytics and the breadth of impact in our implementation programs and on-the-ground work. Likewise, our landowner relationships and our growing list of partners have allowed us to have a much larger impact than if we were operating on our own. Our next 40 years I expect to see orders of magnitude in impact and influence over the health and recovery of our freshwater ecosystems.”

–Kimberlee Obilana, Vice President People and Operations, 9 years with TFT

Kimberlee Obilana and her father

“As all things water get more volatile and unpredictable, there will be an increasing premium on bigger, faster, integrated solutions. Our problem-solver roots, innovative tools, and program successes put us in a unique position to break through inertia, conflict, and bureaucracy with meaningful solutions that deliver for fish, make sense for farmers, and create a more sustainable future for communities.”

–Tim Wigington, Vice President Finance & Policy, 10 years with TFT 

“This organization is persistent. We have good ideas and we work hard to bring them to fruition. More than 10 years ago we were among the first to champion nature-based solutions for regulatory and compliance challenges. We built frameworks, piloted this approach, and talked to a lot of people. Not everyone was on board, but we stuck with it. We continued to prove out the concept, reinforce the standards, and back it up with good data. The rivers improved. Now people come to us for the next wave of nature-based solutions. Going forward, we’ll make this nature-based approach “second nature” to all.”

–Danielle Dumont, Program Communications Manager, 10 years with TFT 

Danielle Dumont (left) and Tim Wigington (center) at Immerse in 2018

“A lot has changed at TFT in the 20-plus years I have worked here, but the fundamentals that keep me excited about this organization have not. TFT is a community of incredibly intelligent, creative and hard-working individuals committed to improving our freshwater future, and I am impressed by my colleagues every day.”

–Marley Gaddis, Grants Manager, 22 years with TFT

“I’ve watched our organization grow the California office with many exciting and diverse programs and projects. What started with a local Delta approach to address groundwater management has turned into many opportunities to work with landowners in the region. Since then, we have created a program to address surface water reporting compliance and a partnership with a local sanitation district to bring recycled water to 17,500 acres of agricultural land for irrigation to offset groundwater use. Besides delivering safe and reliable water, the program also encompasses a plan to preserve and create habitat for cranes, protect riparian forests and some of the most beautiful vernal pools in California. I see TFT furthering these relationships, providing conservation at a pace and scale that will create a positive and lasting impact, and establishing a new way to collaborate with ag communities that leaves everyone feeling successful.”

–Anna Swenson, Community Outreach Coordinator, 6 years with TFT 

Anna Swenson checking groundwater wells in California

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