Anderson retires from conservation board

Steve Anderson, Executive Director of the Washington County Conservation Board, has announced his retirement after 37 years with the organization.

“It’s the right time for me to retire from the job. It’s been a wonderful job. I’ve had great people to work with, but for my wife and I, it’s the right time to leave,” he said.

Only the second director in the conservation board’s history, Anderson’s last day of employment will be Dec. 31. The board will be conducting an executive search in the coming months.

Anderson said that while the mission of the Conservation Board hasn’t changed over the years, the job has.

“When I came in, the state conservation boards were still defining their roles. We were encouraged to grow the program and help them shape the future of conservation,” he said.

During Anderson’s tenure, the Washington Conservation Board greatly increased its landholdings. That is not the primary focus of the board today.

“We were definitely trying to expand our landholdings. People back then were willing to sell to us at fair prices because they knew we were sincere in our efforts to preserve the land for future generations,” he said. “Now, we are more interested in managing the properties we already own. We have made many improvements to our parks and wildlife areas in the past few years. That will likely continue to be our focus. However, we are certainly willing to consider land acquisitions that enhance our current properties and fit in with what we are already doing,” he said.

Anderson said that one area of change in conservation management is the increasing amount of administrative work required.

“When I took the job, I had three employees. Now there is a lot more administrative work involved in the job,” he said.

Another change in the job is the large amount of the patrolling of park properties required by employees.

“Enforcement of park ordinances and state laws is becoming an issue. We have found it necessary to provide our officers with the education needed to ensure public safety. We have also found it necessary to give them the physical equipment and training they need to protect themselves and the public,” he said.

Anderson credits his own board members and the Washington County Board of Supervisors for their support of the many projects completed during his administration. The board and the county have been willing to add many amenities to Washington County parks, he said.

However, Anderson views himself as primarily a biologist and conservationist. His heart lies closest to the work he has done to preserve the natural world for future generations. His legacy for the community lies in the work he and his board members have completed.

“We have done some wonderful projects and built fine buildings to help people enjoy our parks. We have some great projects under construction right now. But for me, first and foremost, are the projects that I worked on to preserve our wildlife and our wildlife habitat. Those projects will provide enjoyment and education for generations to come,” Anderson said.