A Joyful Return to the Northwest - Columbia Land Trust
Executive Director Meg Rutledge reflects on her first 6 months leading Columbia Land Trust

Meg among the wildflowers of the East Cascades.

At the end of 2022, Meg Rutledge and her family moved from New Zealand back to southern Washington so Meg could begin a new role as Executive Director of Columbia Land Trust. Meg was eager to be close to her family and return to her Northwest roots, and since joining the Land Trust this January she has been traveling throughout the region familiarizing herself with sites we steward and meeting Land Trust supporters and partners.

“Conservation is complex, expansive, and important,” Meg said. “It has only been six months, and it will take much longer than that for me to fully understand the depth of our work and the history of some of these places.”

“It’s impossible to pick a favorite site,” she continued, “I’m consistently impressed at how interesting these landscapes are and how valuable our work is.”

For Meg, exploring completed restoration projects in person, for example, is essential to connecting big picture plans with on the ground impacts. “I really enjoy spending time with colleagues and supporters,” she said. “Relationships are central to the work of Columbia Land Trust and are essential for grounding high level strategic plans in tangible results. This is ongoing work and it is my job to strengthen and expand existing relationships, and to foster new ones.”

Meg’s professional background includes rigorous professional and academic training in protected areas management. This work relies on both sound science and community engagement, so it is valuable to her that Columbia Land Trust’s stewardship efforts prioritize this approach.

“The monitoring that we and others do is essential to informing our decisions and guiding our management plans,” she said. “The Land Trust has been collecting and sharing data, and analysis is used to guide our site-specific outcomes. I’m glad we are continuing to increase capacity in that area. This information enables us to measure progress toward our ecological goals and allows us to course correct when necessary.”

Despite all the negative storylines around species extinction, climate change, and other pressing issues facing our natural world, Meg is most motivated by positive stories. “It has been joyful to come back to the Northwest and see the major conservation successes that took place while I was away,” she said. “It inspires me and I am excited to be joining that momentum.”

Outside of work, Meg is looking forward to summer plans to spend time with family and re-connect with friends throughout the region. “I’m excited to take my husband and son to some of my favorite Northwest summits, and to visit some new places that I have always wanted to go.” she said.