River Steward: Scott Youngblood

Scott Youngblood paddling on the Willamette. © L. Brown
Scott Youngblood paddling on the Willamette. © L. Brown

You always know the minute that Scott Youngblood walks into the room. When Scott comes in, he doesn’t just bring a wealth of knowledge and a Southern drawl, he brings a contagious enthusiasm for conservation and restoration and an unparalleled love for the Willamette River.

Scott, who works for Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, was initially introduced to Benton SWCD through the Half Moon Bend State Park project, but it was the Willamette Mainstem Cooperative (WMC) that really brought him into the fold. He has continued to work with Benton SWCD providing insight on projects around the area and lessons learned. He also has volunteered multiple times with Benton SWCD, and specifically for the Native Plant Sale. One of his favorite Benton SWCD memories was his first Native Plant Sale. Scott said, “I’ve worked at several similar events before, and my first time working with Benton SWCD I got to see just how enthusiastic Benton County people are about native plants! And they line up for those plants, they are enthusiastic!” Scott shares this enthusiasm for native plants. To Scott, Oregon is a very special place that he wants to keep that way. “The beauty of the whole world is that everything is a little bit different, and I want it to stay that way and not just be ivy.”

In addition to native plants, Scott loves river-oriented work and strives to take the best care of the rivers both on the clock and off. So much of his passion comes from the fact that he loves his job and would do it for free if he could. After moving from southern Georgia to work on his masters from the University of Oregon to become an archaeologist, Scott started volunteering with Friends of Buford Park and thought, “Oh! People can do this for a living! This is a real thing, working outdoors and helping the public with recreation needs and protecting our environment. I want to do that!” He then took a job with Oregon State Parks and Recreation and hasn’t looked back. Scott lives on the river, recreates on the river, and works on the river. He blends his work and his passion for the river by partnering with groups, such as the WMC, that work to promote stewardship of Willamette River resources and by being a board member of Willamette Riverkeeper. His biggest stumbling block in achieving his conservation goals is simply time…to Scott there are just simply not enough hours in the day to get all the great work done that he wants to. Fortunately, for partners like Benton SWCD, he gets around this challenge through partnerships with organizations that have similar conservation goals.

Scott’s conservation philosophy is simple. To him, “It’s important to preserve the different ecosystems that we have. We as humans continue to develop communities that are slowly destroying the places we love, so we must work to try and save the best places we have to maintain healthy and functioning ecosystems.” This mind-set was influenced by his grandfather, who was a corn farmer in Georgia. Scott spent a lot of time on the farm with him and really got to see his love and interest in the environment and “taking care of the land that takes care of him.” Scott said it was amazing to see how in sync his grandfather was with the land, the weather, and longer and shorter days. Scott was greatly influenced by walks around the farm with his grandfather spotting snakes, mice, and birds. On these walks, his grandfather taught Scott about ecological processes.Scott recognizes that all of our natural areas are going to need stewardship and maintenance for eternity, between the influx of weeds, non-natives species, and other threats. But to him, once projects hit their “free to grow” stage, where they require minimal maintenance, he feels pretty good about it. “I love being able to take a new person to a site where trees are 40 to 50 feet tall and know that I helped get those in the ground. I helped protect our unique ecosystem and our unique river.” Our river, and our Benton SWCD community, appreciates all the hard work Scott Youngblood does! Thanks Scott!