Leadership for federal land management and environmental education in the North Cascades is changing.
For the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, Don Striker will in November replace eight-year Superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich, who has retired.
For the nonprofit North Cascades Institute — a public education organization sharing headquarters in Sedro-Woolley with the national park and with a learning center nestled on Diablo Lake within the park complex — new Executive Director Bec Detrich took the reins this summer.
Detrich replaces longtime Executive Director Saul Weisberg, who co-founded the institute 35 years ago and retired in June.
Inspiring environmental stewardship
The mission of the North Cascades Institute is to make the region’s wilderness accessible, to showcase its wonder and to highlight how everyone is connected to it — with the overarching goal of inspiring more people to care for it.
Detrich, who relocated from California to Sedro-Woolley for the job, said she’s excited to carry that mission forward.
“The North Cascades ecosystem is phenomenal and interesting and often overlooked,” she said.
That ecosystem is home to an impressive network of glaciers that feed the water supply in the Skagit and other area rivers, but are at risk of disappearing due to climate change.
The public lands within the ecosystem also offer green space, fresh air and scenic trails that can support mental and physical health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Detrich said those are some of the reasons she sees the institute’s mission as more important now than ever. She looks forward to “showing people the unique beauty and complexities of the North Cascades and highlighting connections people have to this place.”
The institute offers programs for all ages but tailors several to youth at local schools.
“The North Cascades becomes this phenomenal classroom and laboratory. What they are learning in their schoolbooks comes alive, so they are not just reading about it, and kids can feel that connection and that sense of belonging ... and also the ownership of these lands,” Detrich said.
Detrich brings with her experience studying and teaching natural history in the U.S. and other countries.
“I saw it as this amazing opportunity to be able to move into different communities ... learn deeply about the science and ecology of the area and then teach it to others,” she said of her career in environmental education.
Detrich previously led programs in Yosemite and Golden Gate national parks, on the East Coast and in Australia.
She was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Colorado, went to school in Oregon, spent time in Massachusetts, Maine and California, studied in Tanzania and has visited dozens of other countries. But she was familiar with the allure of the Pacific Northwest, knew of the well-regarded North Cascades Institute — and said the region drew her in.
“It has a very unique culture and way of being, compared to other parts of the United States and internationally,” she said.
The pandemic is still impacting some of the institute’s programs, but the organization has adapted its popular Mountain School for Skagit County fifth-graders this year and is launching a new program, Youth for Environment and People (YEP!), for local teens.
“Of course we had all hoped we’d be further along in emerging from the pandemic ... but we have a really strong team, so have been able to adapt,” Detrich said.
Ready for a new challenge
Striker is coming to the North Cascades from Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, where he serves as superintendent.
“I am excited to serve as the superintendent at the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, which is at the heart of nearly 2 million acres of interagency wilderness,” Striker said in a National Park Service news release. “I look forward to joining an amazing team and working with the park’s world-class partners to conserve the scenic, natural and cultural values of this unique area.”
Striker, who has worked for the National Park Service for 28 years, has held his position at Denali National Park and Preserve since 2013, managing 6 million acres of wilderness.
He recently spent 18 months as the acting regional director for the National Park Service in Alaska, overseeing operations throughout 16 parks and two affiliated areas spanning 54.7 million acres.
“With 28 years of experience in the National Park Service, Don has a proven history of visitor and resources management,” acting National Park Service Regional Director Cindy Orlando said in a statement. “He brings extensive skills in managing vast natural areas and an ability to cultivate partnerships, which make him a great fit for this position.”
Striker previously served as superintendent at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia as well as Mount Rushmore and Fort Clatsop national memorials.
He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.