Introducing Chris Mason, Our Newest Conservation Northwest Board Member

Introducing Chris Mason, Our Newest Conservation Northwest Board Member

Conservation Northwest / Oct 03, 2023 / Our Staff, Work Updates

Conservation Northwest is pleased to welcome our newest Board Member, Chris Mason

1) When did you become interested in conservation?

My mother focused me on nature and creatures from the moment I could speak. She also ski raced and taught me how to ski at an early age. My first overnight backpack was at age 11 in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire. I loved it and wanted more.  When I moved to the Arizona desert and then to Washington, I gained wilderness experience. But what drove me at that time was pure recreation, not conservation. When a bear and her cub once blocked my exit from Thousand Acre Meadows in the Olympics, I loved the activity but got increasingly impatient as hours passed. I wanted back to the trailhead before dark. Boo hoo for me.

My attitude evolved through age and backcountry skiing. Thanks to lifelong Washington, Idaho, and Montana ski friends, I backcountry skied for three decades in all three states and importantly, in the hut system of British Columbia. With help from guides and the more experienced, I saw evidence of creatures and sometimes the creatures themselves in winter, in remote wilderness, in deep snow, and sometimes, particularly in the case of a hungry wolverine and several moose, at speed. 

With that, I paid increasing attention to the signs of animals and animal travel, winter and summer.  I came to better understand the importance of apex predators and the implications of animals crossing borders.  I saw distressing signs of climate change and encroachment into what seemed very sensitive areas and worried about it.  As we had kids and took them hiking and camping,  the necessity for protecting the remaining wilderness and animal interconnectivity seemed to merge with parenting. I found myself wanting to do more.

2) What are your favorite ways to engage with the natural world?

These days I like to stop, look, and listen. No matter where I am, I tend to see or hear something cool. While the combination of exercise and travel through the natural world always puts me in a state of wilderness mindfulness, I’ve learned that when I stop, look, and listen, I see and understand even more. 

3) What made you decide to invest your time and energy into Conservation Northwest?

The deciding factor for me was CNW’s commitment to coalition building.  I was introduced to Conservation Northwest in the context of my work as a board member of the Lea Foundation, established by one of the co-inventors of the Thermarest. What impressed us was that CNW understands and acknowledges the competing use of land and other resources. It engages in a search for common ground with competing stakeholders.  CNW also seeks support through a record of tangible accomplishments, not vilification of those who have competing points of view or behaviors. 

4) What CNW program or campaign stands out for you?

Three come to mind: virtual fencing, reintroduction of native species like Canada lynx, and return of historic tribal land to the Colville Tribe. Each is game-changing. More generally, CNW’s ongoing involvement with and reliance on Indigenous peoples in programs and board governance. When it comes to land and wildlife, the knowledge and experience of the Tribes are foundational, and CNW understands it will always have more to learn from them. 

5) What kind of future do you hope to see in the Northwest?

A future where the benefits of our mission to “protect, connect, and restore” are broadly accepted. I believe that CNW’s coalition-building approach, including its willingness to work with those with divergent views, is the way to that end.