Great Peninsula Conservancy Executive Director set to retire

Sandra Staples-Bortner served an 11 year tenure at the helm of the land trust

Sandra Staples-Bortner, executive director of Great Peninsula Conservancy, has announced her retirement after 11 years of leading the land trust.

The land trust was the primary partner in Kitsap County’s purchase of the 3,400-acre Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park and the recent purchase of 160 acres for the former Boy Scout Camp Hahobas on Hood Canal, near Dewatto.

Just a few years before those accomplishments, Great Peninsula Conservancy led a campaign to save the historic Petersen Farm in Silverdale after the death of its longtime owner. The land was in danger of being parceled up into house lots, according to a GPC press release.

In 2008, Staples-Bortner was hired as the executive director for the Great Peninsula Conservancy. The land trust was struggling with only two staff members and dwindling financial resources, a release states. Over the last decade, she has reinvigorated Great Peninsula Conservancy with connections to local communities, annual financial growth, cash reserves and a record of conserving 10,500 acres — all but 2,100 of those acres were protected during her tenure.

The acreage includes lands owned by Great Peninsula Conservancy and lands now owned by public agencies such as Kitsap County Parks.

“I felt it was going to be a challenging task, but I felt ready for it,” Staples-Bortner said. “The reason we’ve been successful is [that] we have a community that is passionate about the outdoors.”

Prior to joining the Great Peninsula Conservancy, Staples-Bortner spent 24 years working for national conservation organizations. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife management from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in natural resources from Cornell University. She grew up on the coast of Massachusetts and has lived in the Pacific Northwest for 25 years.

Staples-Bortner said she intends to retire on May 31. The conservancy’s board of directors expects to announce the selection of a new executive director in the coming weeks.

“On my first day as executive director of Great Peninsula Conservancy in February 2008, I knew I had found my dream job,” Staples-Bortner said. “I could direct my passion for nature and expertise in wildlife ecology and nonprofit management toward saving lands close to home. What could be better than that?

“After 11 years as executive director of this incredible organization, I am ready to turn leadership of our vibrant land trust over to someone new to lead GPC on the next leg of its journey,” Staples-Bortner said. “I am ready to travel with my husband, play with my two young grandchildren and enjoy the great outdoors.”

Staples-Bortner talked about the qualities she would like to see in a new executive director.

“They need to make this their vision,” she said. “Someone who has really good communication skills, good relationship building, good team building and being able to reach out to the community.”

Great Peninsula Conservancy President Kit Ellis expressed her appreciation and gratitude for Staples-Bortner.

“Sandra has a knack for connecting people to the land and inspiring people to want to help save it,” Ellis said. “She has made it easy for each of us to make a difference by joining a volunteer work party or making a donation.”