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The Dirt | Conservation Neighbor: Heather Medina Sauceda

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Heather, at far left, at a welcome picnic for three students visiting from Mexico as part of the Willamette-Laja Twinning Partnership.

One of Benton SWCD’s longest and strongest conservation partnerships is with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Heather is the NRCS Basin Team Leader for Oregon’s Central Coast / Upper Willamette and South Western regions. As if that role were not enough to keep her busy, she is also the 2021 president of Women in NRCS (WIN), a member of the Linn-Benton Hispanic Advisory Committee, and a cohort of Unid@s, a leadership development program through Latino Network.

Heather’s love of the outdoors began as a kid growing up in Michigan where she enjoyed camping, canoeing, and fishing with her grandparents, parents, and siblings. This early fascination with exploring the natural world many decades ago is now reflected in some of her favorite places to go in Benton County with her husband and their family: Finley Wildlife Refuge, Marys Peak, and Get Outdoors Day.

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Heather graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) with a bachelors in Zoology / Environmental Biology in 1999. She was the first generation in her family to go to college. She was involved with groups such as Minority Students in Science, and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. While working for NRCS she became immersed in classes on tribal law and Native American History.

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Heather also served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic as an Environmental Education volunteer in 2003- 2005. She credits numerous mentors along the way who encouraged her not to quit even when she was presented with barriers and bias while pursuing her education and professional career.

In her current job and volunteer work Heather continues her passion for outreach to underserved communities, tribes, and youth. She feels a responsibility to help others, just as people encouraged her to reach her goals. Heather says she “always has one hand reaching up with the other extended below to help others rise to their next level. If a door gets closed, jump through the window! Don’t give up.”

Heather’s warm, welcoming smile and willingness to reach out is that window for many in our community. We are grateful to have Heather as a Conservation Neighbor!

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