FRLT Welcomes Shelton Douthit

In October, the Feather River Land Trust welcomed Shelton Douthit as its new Executive Director. While Shelton may be new to this position, he is not new to FRLT, or to the work of conserving and restoring special places (more on that below). As FRLT Board President, Carl Chavez, comments:

"Talk about the right person being at the right place at the right time. FRLT was fortunate to have Shelton Douthit under contract as FRLT's Conservation Director, doing what he does best--dealing with land transactions--when Paul Hardy, our founder and Executive Director, moved on after 18 years in his leadership role. Shelton has stepped right in, making for a smooth transition in his new role, and he brings a positive, optimistic vision of the future working with FRLT's staff, board, and you, our members."

FRLT's Executive Director Shelton Douthit

Since 2014, Shelton has served as FRLT's Conservation Director, helping to close important land transactions like the Olsen Barn and the Sierra Valley Preserve, as well as moving forward conservation easement agreements on the Stewardship Council lands like Mountain Meadows in the Almanor Basin. When Founding Executive Director Paul Hardy announced his departure, Shelton's experience with all aspects of land conservation and nonprofit management made him a natural fit to guide the Feather River Land Trust through this important time of transition and growth.

Shelton Douthit and Paul Hardy

Here's what Paul Hardy has to say about Shelton:

"Shelton is a great fit with FRLT. He's been the Executive Director of two other growing land trusts and has lots of experiencing scaling organizations, managing multiple staff, and developing financial systems that work. He's one of the nation's leading experts in land and conservation easement stewardship. 

What Shelton has to say about the Feather River Country

As Shelton steps into leadership at FRLT, we asked him what stands out to him most about the region:

  • Water--the most striking thing about the Feather River region. From the creeks to the rivers to the wet meadows full of water in the Spring. 
  • Views -- the big beautiful valleys surrounded by mountain ranges. The first time I saw Sierra Valley in 1986, it took my breath away. I had never seen anything like it
  • People--to see such a sophisticated land trust in a region that is so lightly populated. So many care about this landscape and are devoted to it. And to have such liveable communities, which seem to be disappearing from so many places--it's truly special.

We love that it is us, the people, who stand out to Shelton, and particularly impress him with a commitment to place. He notes the Olsen Barn as one of the most satisfying land conservation efforts he's ever been part of. "In addition to the ecological and historical importance of the land," he comments, "the way the community, agencies, and FRLT worked together to protect the Olsen Barn Meadow was tremendous. FRLT took a risk and jumped out ahead of funding, and the community met us there."

Connecting people to land is central to the Feather River Land Trust's mission, a mission that Shelton wholeheartedly supports. Like so many of us, early connection to land shaped who Shelton is today, and continues to inspires his work.

From Junior Ranger to Firefighter: Early Experiences in Land Stewardship

From serving as a Junior Ranger for the East Bay Park District in 6th grade, to restoring oak woodlands at Berkeley's Tilden Park as teenager, to wildland firefighting in the Sierra, to the past 29 years of land conservation, Shelton has spent his life caring for and conserving California's land. But his love of the land began even earlier. Shelton's mother worked for the City of Berkeley, and each year from the time he was 2 years old until he was 18, they had the privilege of spending two weeks at Berkeley Tuolomne Camp, a camping tradition in the Stanislaus National Forest since 1922. Of these early childhood experiences, he says, "It really developed a sense of stewardship, a beautiful gift for all of us."

After 10 seasons of fighting fire with the US Forest Service and CAL FIRE, Shelton was offered a permanent position with CAL FIRE. He was on the cusp of making a career of fire, when his mother became sick and passed away. That experience created in him a hunger for meaningful work for the land that was less reactive. Emotion rises to the surface when Shelton says, "Twenty-nine years later, I'm extremely grateful I made that decision."

A Wealth of Experience in Land Conservation

Shelton Douthit at Heart K
Shelton was introduced to the concept of land trusts 1987 when he and Zoe Ann Ahnstrom (now his consulting partner and spouse), attended a ground-breaking conference at UC Berkeley called "Restoring the Earth," and were inspired by the concept that humans could help restore natural processes and systems on landscapes, and that the act of doing so could be restorative to people as well.

That year, Shelton began volunteering with the Sempervirens Fund, California's oldest land trust. From there he was hired as a Sempervirens field coordinator, leading watershed restoration efforts for 5 years. When Zoe's doctoral soil science studies took them to UC Riverside, Shelton became the first paid Executive Director of the Riverside Land Conservancy. This served as important training ground in all aspects of land transactions and due diligence, as well as engaging volunteers, teachers, and schoolchildren in stewardship and restoration work along the Santa Ana River. In 1996, Shelton was approached to help the newly established Wildlands Conservancy to conserve more 430,000 acres of former railroad land grant lands in the California's Mojave Desert. Since 2000 Shelton and Zoe, through Shelton Douthit Consulting, have assisted land trusts with land transaction management, environmental due diligence, baseline documentation, and land stewardship planning.

Looking Ahead with FRLT

Shelton looks ahead to this critical time of growth in FRLT's history:

I am excited to help carry forward the work that Paul and a passionate group of volunteers began. I love this team--the board, the staff, and volunteers. In the face of a massive amount of work, they keep their spirits up, work hard, and give every day to this place. I don't see myself as the public face of the organization; this team with deep connections to this region is the public face. I'm more of a technician, but I intend to bring every resource I have--and a lot of lessons learned--to help FRLT grow through this critical stage, so that we can maintain a healthy, strong, stable organization for the people and the lands of the Feather River region.

Please join us in welcoming Shelton. You can email him here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016