Board members from left to right: Cliff Hall, Heidi Goracke, Jerry Paul, Faye Yoshihara, Pat Malone, Grahm Trask, and Henry Storch.

Benton SWCD Directors and Associates

The Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has been serving local landowners since 1956.

Benton Soil & Water Conservation District is led by seven volunteer directors, who are elected to represent five geographical zones in the county, and two at-large directors. Other volunteers are appointed to serve as associate directors. These volunteers contribute substantial insight, expertise and energy to the Board.

If YOU are interested in serving as a director or associate, please email us, call or stop by.

Zone Directors

ZONE 1: Pat Malone

Pat is the owner of Sunrise Tree Farm in Kings Valley.

Currently Pat and Betty farm Christmas trees on about 70 acres and timber on 35 acres. They live in their passive solar house which they built 30 years ago.

The farm has been a wonderful place to live and raise our daughters. From the start our philosophy has been to leave the land in better shape than we found it. When we started farming we saw two problems: erosion and 40 acres of Canada thistle. We decided to base our farming decisions on the long term benefit to the farm and not just short term consideration.

For erosion control we decided to use ground covers between the tree rows to help hold the soil in place. As we learned more about our soils and farm, it was clear we had no extra soil to lose.

The ground cover decision had consequences. The newly planted trees were stressed for water, so we began to irrigate the first couple of years trees were planted. The ground covers also gave a place for predator bugs to live, which helped keep the “bad” bugs to a minimum.

Ground covers have cut the need for pesticides by 60 – 70% and help keep the mud off of trees at harvest, but require that we mow the rows each year. Our understanding of the farm has grown and grown, but it is much more complex than we thought when we started. Our decision to use ground covers has been interwoven into many other aspects of the farm. We are still learning and loving it.

ZONE 2: Faye Yoshihara

Faye Yoshihara and her husband, Kevin Kenaga own a small woodland, their Forest Fractal, in the Soap Creek Valley.  Drawn by its biodiversity, their goal is to preserve and protect Oregon oak savannah and woodland while encouraging biodiversity in a healthy mixed species forest with diverse habitats, including riparian and wetland areas that feed into Soap Creek and the Luckiamute River watershed.

Professionally, Faye merges a 20-year corporate career with over a decade of brokering cross-sector partnerships and supporting social enterprise development.  Faye was a general manager for Nike Inc., where she provided regional line management in emerging markets.  At S. C. Johnson & Son, she held diverse positions from R&D to business management, including expatriate assignments based in Venezuela, Mexico & Malaysia.  These corporate experiences prompted Faye to launch Pontes Consulting LLC, where she worked with businesses, NGOs, CBOs & government agencies promoting collaborative models for job creation.

Returning to her own rural roots having been raised on a farm in Malheur County Oregon, Faye now focuses her efforts on rural livelihoods and experiential learning with Forest Fractal, LLC, a social enterprise dedicated to the restorative economy.  Faye served as an adjunct instructor at Portland State University School of Business, Master of International Management the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Collaborative Design spanning a ten-year period.  Currently, she serves on the boards of the Benton Soil Water Conservation District and Biomimicry Oregon.  Faye holds bachelors’ degrees in Food Science and Technology and Microbiology from Oregon State University and a Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University.

ZONE 3: Clifford Hall, Chair

Cliff and Gay Hall own Luckiamute Meadows Farm through which two creeks and a river run. Located next to the Kings Valley Charter School, it has been used for agricultural, wildlife and environmental school projects. “The kids have planted trees here, and they can look out the window and see the elk. They use this whole area as an outdoor classroom, looking for fish and snails in the creek, identifying native plants and watching wildlife.”

Hall has been on the Benton Soil & Water Conservation District board since 2003, work he began as a way to return a favor. The District helped him restore riparian, wetland and prairie habitat for elk, birds, waterfowl, trout and steelhead that are native to his property’s land and streams. The Halls were awarded BSWCD’s 2002 Cooperator of the Year Award for their efforts. “When they asked me to be on the board, I could hardly refuse,” he said.

Now retired, Hall was a Corvallis doctor since 1973. He bought the former sheep ranch in 1999 and has recently expanded his original 78-acre feeder calf ranch to about 160 acres, allowing him to increase his feeder operation to 50 calves. Nearly half of his acres are now in the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. He uses New Zealand fencing, which can be tightened to keep elk out while the calves are on the land from April to August, but can be taken down or loosened the rest of the year when elk are on the land.

“I wanted to leave the land better than I found it, do some ranching and develop a wildlife refuge.”

ZONE 4: Grahm Trask, Secretary

Grahm Trask was born and raised in Alsea, Oregon and has lived in Benton County for 25 years. His passion for nature was kindled by a childhood of hunting, fishing, and exploring throughout the Coast Range. He and his family currently manage a small livestock operation within the Alsea Valley raising cattle, pigs, hay, and a small timber stand. Grahm is a habitat restoration contractor specializing in aquatic ecosystems. He has spent the last fifteen years working in streams, rivers, and forests throughout Oregon. “A big reason I am involved in conservation is a hope that my kids and future generations are able to enjoy a thriving, diverse landscape when they step off the beaten path”.

ZONE 5: Heidi Goracke

Heidi was raised in the Sierra foothills of California and spent many weekends backpacking, exploring, and cross-country skiing.  Here was born a lifelong appreciation for trees, plants, and wild lands that led her to pursue a B.S. in Forestry and Natural Resources at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  It was at Cal Poly that Heidi discovered an excitement for forest management from an agricultural perspective.  Graduating in 2004, Heidi went on to work as a forestry technician at UC Berkeley’s Blodgett Forest Research Station in Georgetown, CA.  Collecting forest measurement data for the forest manager and various grad students piqued her interest in research, and so in 2005 she began the Master of Science program in Forestry at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. After two years of graduate coursework and the execution of a study on Ponderosa Pine regeneration under fire and fire surrogate conditions, she transferred to Oregon State University to finish her degree.  Unusual circumstances led her to switch program directors and pursue a new project on the temporal effects of vegetation management on wood quality of western conifers. She graduated from OSU in 2010 with an M.S. in Forest Engineering, Resources and Management. In the midst of her graduate work, she married into a third generation Willamette Valley grass seed farming family.  Heidi now resides in southern Benton County where she and her husband manage the family’s timber and raise their two young kids.  “It’s a privilege and blessing to be a caretaker of this land and I want my kids to understand how to work hard, work well with others, and respect the legacy we’ve been entrusted with.”

At Large Directors

Henry Storch, Vice Chair

As Henry travels around the county, he is on the lookout for invasive weeds. “If I find the next meadow knapweed or false brome on my horseshoeing rounds hopefully we can get rid of it before it becomes a problem.”

“I first got interested in being involved to help identify new invasive plants and get new infestations eradicated before they become a threat to agriculture and native ecosystems. As a farrier I drive all over Benton County and see a lot of new weeds before they are widespread. Now I have a place to go when I find something new to the area.”

“Besides being on the lookout for new weeds, I’m also interested in rare native plant species. I’m a firm believer in the stewardship of families that make their living off the land. It’s no coincidence that most of the healthiest native prairies in Benton County are on private land. Grazing, farming, logging and other disturbance factors that are a way of life for rural residents have “preserved” the habitat for many species that have become rare on unmanaged public lands. We should take the concerns of private land owners and those who make their living on natural resources into consideration when working to conserve or expand these habitats. Incentives that reward good stewardship should take precedence over arbitrary regulations that infringe on land management decisions.”

“I live outside Philomath and grow produce and plants for the Corvallis Farmers Market. I enjoy collecting native wildflower seed and sharing it with neighbors. I’m motivated to protect the quality of life in rural Benton County for my son and daughter.”

Jerry Paul, Treasurer

Jerry’s formal education is in Architecture and Urban Planning. He worked as an Urban Planner at both the city and county level before becoming a principal partner in a planning consulting firm based in San Francisco, CA. He preferred working in the public sector, so he left the private sector and went to work for the City of Salinas, CA.

For the first 15 years at the City, he worked as a Senior Planner, Assistant Community Development Director, and Community Development Director. He then changed careers and became the Information Technology Manager for the City. For the next 17 years, he directed the computer and telephone operations and developed the City’s GIS system, retiring in July 2004.

During his working career in the Salinas Valley, he and his wife, Judith, owned and ran a cow/calf cattle operation. Their interest in landscaping with native plants brought many new species of birds to their ranch. Before selling their ranch and relocating to Corvallis in August 2006, they had recorded 90 species of birds on the ranch. In addition to birding, his other areas of interest are carpentry and woodworking.

Jerry served for four years on the board of directors of the Audubon Society of Corvallis. He worked on the interpretive trail and the revitalization of the Hesthavn Barn, now being used as ASC’s educational facility.

He started as a Chintimini Wildlife Center volunteer in November 2006, was elected to the board in March 2008, and was elected President in July 2009. He also serves as Chintimini’s site manager.

Jerry has worked on the annual Native Plant Sale for the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District for several years and was elected as a District Director in November 2012.

Associate Directors

Rana Foster

Associate Director since 1995.  BS in natural science and a M.S. in environmental soil science.  Rana is an avid naturalist and outdoors adventurer.  Supports Corvallis Chapter of the Audubon Society through volunteering for conservation projects/issues.  Assists Natural Resources Conservation Service with archaeological and natural resource projects.  Involved with the City of Corvallis Development issues as a concerned citizen.

Tim Dehne

Tim has been a dedicated volunteer in Corvallis since 1980.  He has an AAS in Water/Wastewater Technology from LBCC.

Tim served several years as a Benton SWCD Associate Director before being elected as an At Large Director.  He has been very involved in the District’s Annual Native Plant Sale. He believes the #1 issue facing the world as a global community is WATER.  Quantity and quality are in short supply and need serious scrutiny by citizens to ensure a future with well managed resources.

Mark Taratoot

Mark runs the City of Corvallis Water Conservation Program and is Chief Steward for AFSCME Local 2975.   Mark is a charter member of Marys River Watershed Council and serves on their board of directors.  Mark also serves as Advisory Board Chair for Lane Community College’s Water Conservation Program.  Mark spent six years as a scientist in OSU’s Forest Engineering Department researching riparian area form & function, soil impacts of forest management, landslides & debris flows in forests, and drinking water supplied from forested watersheds.  During that time, Mark served a four-year term on the board of Benton SWCD, and subsequently received the Emeritus/Associate Director of the Year award from the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts.  Mark holds a BS in Forest Management and a MS in Watershed Science.  Mark is a volunteer SCUBA diver for the Oregon Coast Aquarium and is an avid kayaker & canoeist. He also enjoys disc golf, ultimate, bicycles, & gardening. A dabbler with a guitar, he likes banjo jokes.