Introducing Conservation Northwest Board Member Matt Uyttendaele
Conservation Northwest / Jun 11, 2020 / Our Staff
Conservation Northwest is pleased to welcome our newest Board Member, Matt Uyttendaele.
When did you first become interested in conservation?
I’ve loved wild animals and being outdoors my whole life. In the 90s, I moved to Washington state from the East Coast and was amazed at the wildlands that exist here. In particular, I remember looking at maps of the Cascades and becoming curious about the shaded area called Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Learning the history of the people and organizations that worked to protect the Alpine Lakes made me appreciate the connection that Washingtonians have to the wilderness.
What are your favorite ways to engage with the natural world?
I spend most of my time outdoors hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing, and, recently, fly-fishing. When my son was about nine years old, I bought a set of sew-on patches at REI. There was a patch for each of the I-90 peaks—Tiger, Si, McClellan, Defiance, Bandera, Granite and Silver. That summer, I gave him a patch each time we hiked one of those summits. We’ve since frequently returned to these hikes.
I have also enjoyed traversing Olympic National Park, with the diversity of nature on display there. My favorite backpacking destination is the Pacific Crest Trail between Snoqualmie Pass and Rainy Pass (sections J & K in PCT lingo).
Skiing Mount Adams during a week of the 4th of July was another memorable trip, along with posting pictures that amazed East Coast friends who didn’t realize you can access snow here all year long.
Near Mount Adams, I also love the Klickitat River. It’s a beautiful river canyon nestled between wet, coastal forests and the drier eastside of the state, and it’s where I caught my first steelhead. What an incredible experience to commune with these fish that get huge by feeding in the ocean, then swim up the Columbia and its tributaries. And since I create photography software for a living, I often try to capture slices of the outdoors on camera.
What made you decide to invest your time and energy into Conservation Northwest?
Shortly after moving here, I was lucky to be introduced to Mitch and CNW (then called Northwest Ecosystem Alliance). Two programs that stood out to me were the campaign to protect lynx habitat in Loomis State Forest and the Cascades Conservation Partnership, which sought to clean up the checkerboard of wild and non-wild lands in the Central Cascades. I was working at Microsoft at the time, and several people I respected there were strong supporters. This inspired me to become a donor and an advocate for the organization. Since then, I’ve become more involved.
In an effort to do some good science and introduce the next generation of potential donors to CNW, I started leading some of my coworkers at Facebook (where I now work) on trips to maintain wildlife cameras, through the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program. This let me meet more of CNW’s staff and made me even more aware of the broad range of impact that the organization has.
What CNW program or campaign stands out for you?
I’m a big fan of CNW’s work on wildlife connectivity. CNW has been a leader on creating awareness of this topic, and its efforts made me appreciate that we need smart land-use policies to connect our wilderness areas. I had no idea this was such an issue until I was exposed to the Cascades Conservation Partnership and then, expanding on the successes there, the I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign. I now look forward to the Cascades to Olympics, Cascades to Rockies, and Coast to Cascades programs seeing similar success.
What kind of future do you hope to see in the Northwest?
I often introduce people to CNW by reciting its motto of “Keeping the Northwest Wild.” When I first moved here, the region looked wild to me, but I’ve since learned how much humans have altered this place over 200 years. I simply hope that the next generations in the Northwest lives in a place where we’ve learned to accommodate real wilderness. Thoreau wrote, “I wish to know an entire heaven and an entire earth,” and I wish that for future generations too.