New conservancy director aims for more community engagement

Nathan Daniel wants to conduct more community science projects with universities and the state

The newly named executive director of the Great Peninsula Conservancy is looking to continue the trajectory that the organization has been on for years under the recently retired Sandra Staples-Bortner.

The organization is a nonprofit land trust charged with protecting natural habitats and open spaces in the Great Peninsula region of West Puget Sound.

Nathan Daniel has a diverse background, from working in the Peace Corps in Timor and Russia to working in his basement for a whole year and building the nonprofit Truckee Meadows Park Foundation from the ground up in Reno, Nevada.

In that role, Daniel worked to protect and advocate for public lands in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

“That’s where I really started seeing the value of conservation and the opportunities that existed,” Daniel said of his time abroad.

“It gave me this different appreciation of being in the forest than I had before. I was always playing outside and I kind of took it for granted.”

Growing up in Northwest Ohio, Daniel was used to being outside and tried to immerse himself in nature. He refers to his home soil as the “Great Black Swamp,” a term coined in the 19th century to describe the area. Daniel holds a master’s degree in environmental science from Ohio University.

Daniel found himself in Washington state after his wife took a job in the Seattle area. Daniel said they had thought about moving here for a while, “just like everybody else.”

“We found jobs that fit our skill set,” Daniel said. “This is the place to be, it’s so beautiful. We love this place.”

Specifically, Daniel noted the biodiversity that Western Washington provides.

“You can walk through a trail and literally identify 40 to 80 species of plants,” he said. “That’s so much fun.”

With just over two weeks under his belt in his new role as GPC’s executive director, Daniel said work has gone smoothly so far. He anticipates that will continue.

“The staff here is excellent,” he said. “They’re high-quality people that know what they’re doing. I’ve been meeting with all the board of directors and they are at a caliber that I honestly haven’t seen in a board before.

“On a day-to-day operational level, I can’t see any problems we are going to have in this transition. I think we’re poised to continue doing all the things that GPC’s been doing and take it to the next level.”

That “next level” involves more civic engagement and more community science projects with universities and state agency workers, Daniel said.

“I want to see more opportunities for people to get out on the properties that we own and get them involved. There is an endless amount of restoration work that can happen.”

Daniel said he has received some technical advice from Staples-Bortner regarding current projects and where the funding is going to come from.

“I have some big shoes to fill,” he said. “She built a great organization.

Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at