women's history month 2022

women in history - women making history

Celebrating the women at Forterra and those we partner with.


Honoring Women of the Past, Present and Future

For more than 30 years Forterra has brought about powerful, practical and positive change. Much of this work has been led, informed, performed and supported by women. Forterra supports the countless contributions women have made and continue to make to ensure our natural resources are conserved and communities are thriving environmentally, socially and economically.

As part of Women’s History Month, we recognize the women that work to advance Forterra’s mission. By telling their stories and highlighting their work we aim to inspire, encourage and support others as they forge their own path and make their own mark in history. 

Click on a name below to learn more about the women at Forterra and those we partner with.
Olgy Diaz - Forterra's Government Affairs Director extraordinaire.

olgy diaz

Government Affairs Director 
Olgy Diaz Bio Headshot Forterra, Director Government Affairs

Our spotlight today is on Olgy Diaz, Forterra’s Government Affairs Director extraordinaire. Olgy is passionate about civic engagement in communities of color and wants to see more people of color and women elected to public office. 

“When positions of power reflect the communities they serve or lead, we can make a better future and world for everyone,” she said. 

Read more below about the interesting work she does and the passions that drive it.

An Interview with Olgy Diaz

Q. What is your role/job within Forterra?

A. I am Forterra’s Government Affairs Director. I advocate for Forterra’s broad reaching projects in local, state, and federal governments through working with elected officials and government agencies. I help make sure people in powerful government positions understand the work we do, why we do it, and how it will help make Washington a better place to live, work, and play.

Q: When did you realize that the arena of government affairs was something you wanted to pursue?
A: I didn’t grow up in a very political family, but I was raised by immigrant parents that did not take their right to vote for granted. I was the first in my family to go to college in the U.S. and quickly learned that the values I held were directly impacted by politics and elected officials. So I took that passion to advocate for my values and influence those in seats of power and turned it into a career for the last 15+ years.
Q: What do you find most compelling about your role?
A: I joined Forterra two years ago on account of being drawn in by the unique vision of making landscape changes and policies that benefit communities and natural habitats in both urban and rural areas. I was really excited about the ability to advocate for projects all over Washington, especially in my own backyard here in Tacoma. There are not many jobs where you can work across the diverse landscape of policy areas and projects like we do at Forterra. It keeps me on my toes while feeding my desire to keep learning new things.
Q: What has been your most rewarding work, or project you have enjoyed the most and why?

A: Forterra’s joint effort with El Centro de la Raza. The project helped provide down payment assistance to a majority BIPOC and immigrant community displaced from their mobile home park. That has been by far the most rewarding project that I’ve worked on in my time at Forterra. I feel so lucky to have played a small role in helping people buy their first homes and plant the seeds of fighting intergenerational poverty through homeownership. I have also deeply enjoyed my work leading Forterra’s Mass Timber/Cross Laminated Timber Statewide Coalition. It’s been a very dynamic new sector to learn about, with countless professionals across the state working together to expand the mass timber market in Washington in meaningful ways.

Q. What would you encourage others to do to make a difference in land-stewardship, community work, or government affairs?

A. Get involved! Make change where you think change needs to be made. Take that time when you normally binge watch one too many shows and research a cause or project you care about and sign up to help. We all live on Earth and as the saying goes, many hands make light work. Sign up for a Green Cities activity near you or show up for that community meeting that discusses impacts within your neighborhood. You’re likely to make new friends and get inspiration for ways you can give back to this land that we’re entrusted to leave better than we found it for generations coming after us. And if you can vote – every time, in every election!

Linda Neunzig - trailblazing woman in the agricultural industry.

Linda neunzig

Farmer and Snohomish County Agriculture Coordinator

All images are courtesy of the Female Farmer Project.

Linda Neunzig is a rarity for many reasons, one of which is being a trailblazing woman in the agriculture industry. She has worked relentlessly to establish a respected voice in county agricultural policy. Linda is the owner and operator of Ninety Farms where she tends a flock of 200-300 Katahdin Hair sheep, and she is also the Agriculture Coordinator at the Snohomish County Economic Development Division. As if two full-time jobs and serving on Forterra’s Board of Directors were not enough, for the past 15 years Linda has also been spearheading her passion project: The Snohomish County Food and Farming Center. Read here to learn more about this incredible endeavor.

Read more below about the interesting work she does and the passions that drive it.

All images are courtesy of the Female Farmer Project.

An Interview with Linda Neunzig
What is the Snohomish County Food and Farming Center?
A: Many things all in one. Phase 1 is a facility that will be used to process, aggregate, and distribute fresh local fruits and vegetables. Phase 2 will be a commercial kitchen that can be used for value-added production of agricultural products, an incubator kitchen for small businesses, as well as a commissary kitchen. Phase 3 will be an indoor, year-round farmer’s market. All of these components all flow together and depend on each other. The center will be located in McCollum Park in south Everett.
Q: How long have you been working on this project and how did you first get involved?
A: The need for this project was identified 15 years ago by farmers in Snohomish County as necessary infrastructure for farming viability. I was involved as a farmer first, and then when I began working for the county, I continued advocating on the farmers’ behalf to bring it to life. The county and the state have now officially funded it, the county owns the site, and it is in the 2022 state and county budget.
Q: What is your role in this project?
A: I am the champion of the project—I’m in it for the long haul and intend to see it through to the end. Initially, I was the instigator. I took the idea to the council and helped bring it to life. Now I am putting all of the pieces together to make it truly viable. I am the voice of the farmers—I advocate on their behalf to make sure that they are heard and that what they need happens. I make sure that the facilities are being built at the right size with the right equipment, that the right people are on the team to ensure the flow is correct, that we find the right businesses to own and operate within the center.
Q: What is the desired outcome of this project?
A: To increase income and market sales for farmers. To make farming a viable career. To keep farmland in production.
Q: Why is this work important to you?
A: Our farmers must make money. They are a business. They work hard. They need to be able to make a living. They need to be able to buy health insurance for their families and clothing for their kids. If they can’t make a profit farming, they will stop. If they stop, we don’t have food security. We need to keep local farming land viable and in production, otherwise it will be turned into concrete and developments. On a more personal level, I am a member of the Samish Nation. Being Native American and a farmer, I see the importance of the land. How we care for that land, and how we nurture that land, and how it in turn nourishes us. It’s having both of those pieces in me that make up who I am as a farmer, and as a Native American.
Q: What do you find most compelling about this project?
A: It’s exciting to see so much support around it: government officials, County Executives, the Washington State Director of Agriculture, and so many others rallying around the cause. They see it, they care about it, and they want it to happen. It really shows the importance of agriculture, and our farmers. It helps ensure that our farmers will be here into the future.
Q: What would you encourage others to do to make a difference in land-stewardship, community work, or conservation?
A: The easiest thing you can do is when you go to the grocery store, look for something local and bring awareness to it. If you’re cooking dinner and grilling carrots from the farm down the road, do an Instagram post of those carrots, use hashtags like #locallygrown @localfarmer. Bring awareness to the importance of buying fresh products from local farmers.
Janet McCloud - Yet-Si-Blue, "woman who speaks her mind."

Janet McCloud, Yet-si-blue

“Woman who speaks her mind”

Janet McCloud, Fish In, Puyallup River

Image of Janet McCloud, Al Bridges (standing) and Jack McCloud on the Nisqually during a fish-in. State Game Department/Washington State Archives.

Janet McCloud, a mother of 8, grandmother of 25, great-grandmother of 28, a writer and community leader; McCloud shaped state history as a resilient Native American activist. Known by many as the “Rosa Parks of the American Indian Movement,” McCloud earned the name Yet-Si-Blue, meaning “woman who speaks her mind” for her fearless fight for American Indian treaty rights.

Born in 1934 on the Tulalip Reservation, a descendant of Chief Seattle, McCloud’s childhood was difficult. She was taught by her mother how to panhandle at age 6. She spent her teenage years cleaning houses and babysitting for a living.
McCloud later met her husband, Don. They parented eight children and often struggled to make ends meet. McCloud learned to live off the land and was excited when they caught a fish or even a deer.
But in 1961, state game wardens descended on McCloud’s home in Yelm, Washington in search of illegally hunted deer meat. McCloud reportedly asked the wardens if they had a search warrant. “They did,” she told the Seattle Times in 1999. “It said `John Doe.’ It made me so mad, but that’s the way they treated us back then.”
A year later, on the banks of the Nisqually River near her home, five members of various tribes were arrested by game wardens despite having legitimate claim to federal treaties with the U.S. government that guaranteed hunting and fishing rights.
The conflict with state game wardens and others galvanized McCloud for a lifetime of activism.
McCloud would go on to co-found, with her husband, the activist group Survival of American Indians Association (SAIA) in 1964 and lead fishing rights protests that became known as “fish-ins,” or strategic acts of civil disobedience of fishing without state permits.
As a prolific writer, she became the editor of the organization’s important newspaper- Survival News – and literally ‘cranked out’ articles on a second-hand mimeograph machine. Survival News told the native side of the fishing-rights story. Fish-ins drew increasing interest from media and public figures, such as comedian Dick Gregory and actor Marlon Brando—and arrests. McCloud emerged from jail even more determined.
After 12 years, the fish-ins organized by McCloud and SAIA led to the landmark federal case in 1974, that became known as the Boldt Decision, which reaffirmed the rights of Washington’s tribes to fish in their customary places.
It was reported that one day, while looking out at Mount Rainier, McCloud “saw all the faces of the great chiefs” and heard a voice that sounded like the famed Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse. It told her not to be afraid.
A trailblazer, McCloud traveled the world, speaking about Indigenous women’s rights and social justice. She used her influence to found several organizations designed to promote the rights of American Indians such as the Indigenous Women’s Network, the Survival of American Indians Association and the Northwest Indian Women’s Circle where she shaped the next generation of fearless Native American female leaders, helping women to develop leadership skills based on traditional values.
McCloud opened of the Sapa Dawn Center, meaning “grandfather dawn” near Yelm, where she taught Native Americans self-sufficiency though gardening, food preservation, native ceremonies, prayer, arts, crafts and writing. She envisioned it to be a tranquil retreat. “When all is going crazy . . . our people can come back to the center to find the calming effect; to reconnect with their spiritual self.”
Janet McCloud died in 2003 at age 69.
Maya Klem - biologist, environmentalist and land steward.

Maya Klem

Biologist, Environmentalist and Land Steward

Maya Klem in the Field

Born and raised in the PNW, Maya is passionate about protecting this beautiful place she calls home. Graduating with a B.S. from Western Washington University, she excelled in both biology and chemistry which provided a solid foundation in the environmental world. Maya first joined Forterra as an AmeriCorps stewardship associate in 2018 and is now a full-time project manager on the Green City Partnerships team. Maya has a true understanding of what it means to steward the land and she continues to learn from the wisdom and knowledge of the Indigenous people before her. Outside of work, you can catch Maya exploring the tropical forests of Costa Rica, hanging out with amphibians, and tending to her houseplants.

Read more below about the interesting work she does and the passions that drive it.

An Interview with Maya Klem

Q: When did you realize this type of work was something you wanted to do?
A: I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and was raised by parents who loved to explore the outdoors. I have always felt a connection to the wilderness because of those memories. I first realized I wanted my work to revolve around the outdoors in college while studying abroad in Costa Rica and Peru. In Peru, I studied herpetology and learned about snakes, frogs, and lizards in the Peruvian Amazon. In Costa Rica, I learned about the region’s diverse ecosystem. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country and I have always felt that we can take a lot of inspiration from them.
Q: What is it about land stewardship that you feel is so important?

A: These are the ancestral lands that the Indigenous people have been stewarding since time immemorial in the Pacific Northwest. I have had the honor of working with these Indigenous people and I feel so grateful for all I have been able to learn from them and the land they steward. We can help heal ourselves and the land by learning from their wisdom and knowledge.

I recently re-read Braiding Sweetgrass, which is an eternal recommendation for anyone wanting to understand more about the importance of land stewardship. It suggests that everyone should be connected to the land, it is what supports us in every single way –and what better way to do that than by literally digging into it? I love that I get to help people build that connection between themselves and the land while making a meaningful difference in their community.

Q: What has been your most rewarding work and why?
A: We have many forest stewards and other volunteers who work in multigenerational teams. It’s so rewarding to see kids learning from their parents and continuing to explore stewardship based on those initial family experiences. Green City Seattle Partnership has been around since 1995, and there are trees that I helped plant as a child that are now taller than me. This is a unique connection with the land when you can see something you planted truly take root and thrive.
I really enjoy helping younger generations build a connection: they plant a tree with someone or for someone, and then come back time after time to take care of that specific tree. I also personally love amphibians, so whenever I see a frog or another animal using the restoration site, it is so gratifying to see that work in action.
Q: In your opinion, what changes are needed in the world of conservation for more women to engage and have an impact?
A: We need to bring everyone to the table and give them an equal voice if we want to create positive change. I am an advocate for women filling more decision-making roles and we need to bring about a more equitable workplace for women throughout the entire field of science. It is important that all women and non-binary people feel that their talents can contribute to the industry, and that they feel supported to become leaders in this industry. I am proud that I can support the ways that the environmental field in this region is becoming more equitable.
Q: Do you have any tips for women starting out in the industry?
A: Trust yourself and go for it! I can see that there are more and more women showing interest in this industry and are eager to get involved. The environmental world, particularly in Seattle, is a small, tightknit community filled with people who are supportive in helping you make connections and grow your network. To grow in this industry, you must be willing to make those connections, whether by interacting with people at volunteer events, or setting up informational interviews to learn more about the day-to-day of a specific role. I have been fortunate and am grateful for the network of women in this industry throughout my career who want this industry to be as great as possible and understand that supporting the people doing that work is the only way to do that.
Q: What would you encourage others to do (big or small) to make a difference in land-stewardship, conservation, or community work?

A: Get out there and start connecting with the land in whatever way works for you! Whether that is physically getting your hands dirty, looking at worms, volunteering, or educating yourself about the native plants growing in your own neighborhood, the options are limitless. There are so many ways you can connect with the land in this area, and as you are learning, those connections will continue to grow. The more connected we are to plants, animals, land, and each other – the more committed we will become to supporting the land. They may seem like small actions now, but big actions start with a series of smaller actions.

Michelle Connor - President and CEO of Forterra, known for her unflappable nature.


President and CEO of Forterra
Michelle Connor, Forterra CEO, Tree Planing EVent

Today we highlight, Michelle Connor, President and CEO of Forterra. Known for her unflappable nature and collaborative approach. Michelle has worked to conserve land for community and environmental well-being throughout her 28-year career at Forterra. She has played a part in more than 400 transactions worth ~$500M and provided executive leadership in all phases of public policy, community engagement, negotiations, fundraising and innovative finance.

Highlights of her leadership include successful completion of the 4,000-acre Kitsap Forest and Bay Campaign, saving the Wayne Golf Course in Bothell to become a large public park, protecting waterfront on Maury Island from being developed as a gravel pit. She also worked to restore the culturally important Duwamish Hill Preserve, the scenic Moolak Lakes to the Mt. Sit Natural Area, negotiated a community stake in coming redevelopment at 23rd and Union in Seattle’s Central District and laying the groundwork for Wadajir, a micro-enterprise hub in Tukwila together with the Abu Bakr Mosque.

To learn more about Michelle, continue reading here.
Hazel Wolf - activist, environmentalist and lifelong 'rabble rouser.'

hazel wolf

Activist, environmentalist and lifelong ‘rabble rouser’

Our region’s conservation community has long been invigorated by the tenacious nature and foresight of activist and environmentalist, Hazel Wolf.
Hazel Wolf once described herself as ‘older than electricity’ and while not strictly true, her feisty and electrifying advocacy for workers and immigrant rights, women’s suffrage and environmental protection – this self-described, lifelong “rabble rouser” became one of the most respected figures in the environmental community.

“If there’s a gathering in my memory, I hope it’s a fund-raiser for a good cause,” she had told Terkel, adding, “I really don’t care whether I’m remembered or not. What you do when you’re alive is what counts” (Terkel, 141).

Born Hazel Anna Cummings Anderson in British Columbia in 1898, Hazel Wolf noted that her activism was driven from self-interest. When told she couldn’t play basketball, she worked for women’s rights. When she found herself struggling as a single-working mother, she become an advocate for workers. And when threatened repeatedly for deportation during the McCarthy-era, she took up the charge for immigrant rights. Wolf, known for her environmental advocacy, noted that she became involved with the environmental movement because she wanted clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, woods to walk in, and birds to watch. “All the way through I am fighting for myself, and for everyone” (Starbuck 272).
In 1964, Wolf took up her defining cause when she became actively involved with the Seattle Audubon Society. Wolf seemed to never tire in her more than 100 years, joining the Audubon Society in the early ’60s. When most people her age would be retiring from work, Wolf was only beginning. At age 67, she went on to serve as the secretary for the Seattle chapter of the Audubon Society for more than three decades and help found nearly all the subsequent Audubon Society chapters in the Pacific Northwest. She was reported as saying one of her goals was to turn “a bunch of bird watchers into an effective environmental lobby.”
Wolf’s most notable self-commentary on her life’s work was the telling and retelling of the ‘little brown creeper.’ One day walking through a local park she noticed a little brown creeper grubbing for bugs. “I saw that little brown creeper, and I knew that bird,” she said. “It worked hard for a living, and so did I. It had a lifestyle … just like I had a lifestyle – get up in the morning, eat breakfast, catch a bus and go to work, eat lunch, go back to work, come home at night” (Starbuck 173).
In 1997, Wolf was awarded the National Audubon Society’s Medal of Excellence, an honor she shares with Rachel Carson (1963) and Sir David Attenborough (2018) among other notable environmentalists. 
Wolf was also an early advocate for BIPOC communities, founding Seattle’s Community Coalition for Environmental Justice in 1992. Saying in a speech, “The environmental community is almost 100 percent white and middle-class, but it’s the low-income neighborhoods where toxic landfills and incinerators are found” (Audubon Magazine).
Her obituary in the New York Times quotes her in a speech in 1998 on sustainable forestry, saying her goal was not to “spare that tree, cut not a single bough” but to assure that forests would serve many values that include wildlife, timber for homes, paper for writing and “probably even skateboards.”
The renowned author Studs Terkel perhaps captured the value of Wolf in his 1995 book “Coming of Age,” writing that were two things that made Seattle special, “You have the Mariners, and you have Hazel Wolf.”
To honor the collaborative spirit she inspired, Forterra joined with the citizens of our region to protect the 116-acre Hazel Wolf Wetlands Preserve in Sammamish, named for the woman who inspired by a ‘little brown creeper’ left a legacy.
To learn more about Hazel Wolf Wetlands Preserve, continue reading here.

"I’ll be fierce for all of us, for our planet, and all of our protected land." - Debra Haaland, Secretary of the Interior

Hilary Franz - Washington Commissioner of Public Lands.

hilary franz

Washington Commissioner of Public Lands
HilaryFranz-Washington Commissioner

Hilary Franz is Washington’s 16th Commissioner of Public Lands, serving since 2017. Through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WaDNR), Commissioner Franz manages nearly six million acres of public lands – everything from our coastal waters and our working forests and farms to commercial developments and our recreation areas. She also leads the state’s firefighting force.

Born and raised in Washington, Hilary brings a passion to protect our lands and waters, ensuring all communities in Washington benefit from how we manage our lands.

She is focused on safeguarding Washingtonians from the impacts of the climate crisis, increased development, and wildfire. As she says, “You can’t take care of people if you don’t take care of place and you can’t take care of place, if you don’t take care of people.”

To help tackle the climate crisis she led WaDNR in the development of the agencies first-ever Plan for Climate Resilience and has developed a 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan. She fought plans from the Federal government open Washington waters to offshore drilling and secured a $500 million dollar investment from the state legislature which will be used to fund forest restoration, build community resilience, and prevent and fight wildfires. Recently Commissioner Franz supported Forterra’s successful partnership with WaDNR to conserve 40 acres of critical old-growth forest habitat in the Central Cascades and ensure it is protected in perpetuity as part of the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area.

We interviewed Commissioner Hilary Franz as part of our 2022 Women’s History Month Campaign.

An interview with Hilary Franz

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.

Q: How has growing up in the Pacific Northwest shaped your views on conservation?
A: Growing up in the Pacific Northwest has absolutely shaped a majority of my perspectives on conservation. I had the great fortune of being the granddaughter of a rancher and a small forest landowner that moved in the midst of the great depression from the black blizzards of South Dakota to Pierce County, which looked like the promised land, if you can imagine that period of time. And I was raised with a really deep appreciation and respect for lands and waters and the resources they provide, from the shelter that protects us to the food and water that nourishes us. And for me, watching in this role, how our finite natural resources can be so much at risk, whether it’s wildfire, drought, disease, or even rapid population growth, has emboldened me to do everything I can to make sure we protect and conserve this beautiful state and the beautiful places of Washington, not just for this generation, but future generations. 
Q: Who were some women you were inspired by growing up?
A: I was raised by my father, but I have the great fortune of having an amazing grandmother. So first I would say my grandmother because she had unbelievable generosity and kindness to everyone. This world is full of too much criticism and cynicism. And she reminded me every single day to show up with kindness and compassion, and care that people are doing the best they can. I also had the great opportunity of attending an all-women’s high school and all-women’s college — my peers in my most formative years were my role models. To be surrounded by over three thousand fearless women with big dreams and brilliant minds inspired me to always make sure I didn’t let my fear be my limiting factor. 
Q: What is one defining moment for you as commissioner?

A: Oh, I’d say the most defining moment in my almost six years as Commissioner of Public Lands had to be firestorm Labor Day in 2020. In literally 72 hours, we had over 660,000 acres burn in Washington state. We had over 56 fires in just the first 24 hours. We watched, literally in just two hours, how the small town of Malden, as over 80% of that town was burned to the ground. Homes, one after the other, burned to the foundation with just the chimney standing. The city hall, the fire station, their only fire truck — burned.

I visited that site the day after those fires and stood with the mayor who helped rally the people to evacuate and get to safety and, watching the determination and also the incredible loss, it pushed me to make sure that in my time as Commissioner of Public Lands, I will do everything I can to ensure that these communities that are on the front line of a rapidly changing climate and catastrophic wildfires have all the resources they need to protect them.

It started with bringing them (ed note: the town of Malden) a fire truck that Christmas, because the only one they had burned. Then all the way to fighting for House Bill 1168, which was the unprecedented unanimous investment by our legislature of $500 million for wildfire resources, forest restoration and community resilience.

Q: That must have been a really trying time. What can we learn from what happened there and how we reacted as a state? 
A: I think the first thing that we can learn is that we have throughout this state over 2 million homes, and it’s growing every single day, that are at risk of wildfires. I also oversee earthquakes, tsunamis and five live volcanoes in the state of Washington. We are a volatile state, and I don’t mean just politically, but just in our natural geology. And the reality is we’ve done very little to help our communities and our families that are on the front lines, whether it’s a rapidly changing climate with wildfire or the risks of earthquakes and landsides and tsunamis.
And I think it’s important that first everybody become educated and aware of what those risks are and what they can do to make their homes and their neighborhoods and communities more resilient. I think it’s also critical upon us as leaders to make sure we’re bringing resources to those communities that are at the highest level of risk, but also have the least amount in terms of resources. In that town of Malden, most of those homes couldn’t afford insurance and now they have nothing. They left with the clothes on their back and that’s it. Our job is to realize these natural disasters are only going to continue to happen and we can help prevent them, but we also need to be there post recovery to reduce the damage and help stabilize that community and get people the homes that they need.
Q: You are the 16th Washington state Commissioner of Public Lands and the second woman to hold this office. How do you see yourself among your predecessors?
A: So first I can’t believe it’s 136 years, wow. The world has changed a lot and our state has changed, and it’s changing not only because of population growth, but also because of climate change. I have the great opportunity, I’ve learned from the expertise and experience of (the 15 previous Commissioners) in 136 years before us and the work that they did, as well as the one woman who blazed the trail before me, Jennifer Belcher. And I really looked back at what they learned and what they did as a model for how I lead in the future.

I also recognize that the world’s changed rapidly and climate change is one of our biggest threats. Commissioner Burke Cole was commissioner in, I think, 1963. And he had the worst wildfire season ever in Washington state history (ed note: at the time) with 663 acres burned. We had 660,000 acres burned last year. And that actually was a good year in the way that we fought these fires during the worst drought Washington State has ever had.

So as I am looking forward. I’m trying to recognize the risks that are in front of us and trying to make sure that 136 years from now the Commissioner of Public Lands can look back and say, Commissioner Franz looked at the impacts of climate change and the needs of the communities in every corner of the state and was able to see how those lands are going to change over the next 50 to 100 years, and put in the investments and resources and policies and protections that will make sure they can still provide the economic, social and environmental value they do today for generations who are here in 136 years from now.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be as commissioner?
A: I have a saying that I’ve had for a long time, which is you can’t take care of people if you don’t take care of place and you can’t take care of place, if you don’t take care of people.
My greatest hope is when people look back, they say Commissioner Franz tackled some of our biggest challenges, from dying forests, ocean acidification, sea level rise, extinction, or threat of extinction to salmon, forests and these catastrophic fires, as well as such the significant economic disparities between rural and urban communities. And I was able to show up for the places where we have to make sure that we’re caring for and stewarding and managing — not just for today, but for generations in the future — that provide the wood that shelters us, the food that we depend on and the water that we need. And that I was also able to do it in a way that respected and valued the different cultures of the people who are here today, whether they are our tribes, our ranchers, our foresters, or communities of color that have limited access to green space in the urban areas.
And that I did it with a sense of respect, listening, learning, valuing everyone’s opinion — making hard decisions, but making a true difference for people today and in the future.
Q: Finally, Commissioner Franz, what would you tell other young women thinking of entering this field in which nearly all of the photos on the wall of your predecessors are men?
A: Okay. So, one of the biggest shocks to me was this. I had the great fortune, and obviously going to an all-women’s high school and women’s college, I had a lot of women that trailblazed before me. And then I went into law and it was frankly, 40/60, we were doing pretty good. And then, when I got into this field, I was amazed to find myself, in 2017, in a lot of rooms where I was the only woman.
I think the first thing we have been doing is really changing that so that women see themselves, whether they are foresters or whether they are divers for gooey ducks or whether they are firefighters that they can see themselves in any one of these roles and that they are needed, that their voice is needed, their values are needed the way they listen and learn from others and their intentional commitment to making a difference.

And I think that we’ve done huge things (ed note: at WaDNR), for the first time we have a COO who’s a woman, the CEO is a woman, the CFO is a woman and then throughout the organization, we are truly making sure that women are represented in every program we have.

And I would just say, my biggest message to women of all ages, whether they are five and fearless or whether they’re 105 and fearless is, our life shrinks or expands in proportion to how much courage we show and to never be afraid. That honestly we’re going to achieve amazing things and make a huge difference not only in our life, but in so many others, as long as we don’t let fear hold us back.
Kiara Daniels -Tacoma City Councilor, committed to loving our city.


Tacoma City Councilor, committed to loving our city.
Growing up in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, Kiara Daniels learned the importance of giving back to her community and “writing a love letter” to it.

Her life has been a love letter to Tacoma’s Hilltop community.

Daniels graduated from Tacoma School of the Arts and continues to give back by recruiting underrepresented students to Tacoma high schools specializing in art, math, science and engineering.
It was in college at Evergreen State College, Tacoma Campus that she found her calling and followed in parents’ footsteps—each of whom served more than 30 years for the State of Washington. She committed her career to elementary education, housing and local business development in the community. She went on to earn a Master of Public Administration from Evergreen State College Olympia Campus. 
After college and while volunteering at the Northwest Leadership Foundation, she learned a lifelong mantra that continues to drive her commitment to Tacoma—”Love Our City.” If we truly love our city, she thought, we will care for the people in it by ensuring everyone has access to basic human rights, including safe and affordable housing, food security, quality public education, good paying jobs and safety.

In November 2021, voters recognized devotion to underrepresented voices in the community and elected her to serve them in the Tacoma City Council. Prior to her election, Daniels was the business and community development coordinator for Spaceworks Tacoma, a program of the Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. There, Daniels led its Hilltop business support to help secure space and resources for Black-owned businesses in the Hilltop business district. 

In addition to her work with the chamber, Daniels has made an impact on local affordable housing, economic justice, and community-centered design through her leadership as a core member of Fab-5, a Hilltop nonprofit that helps young people connect for more opportunity and creative collaboration.
In her role at Fab-5, Daniels helps lead a community development initiative through which historic Hilltop residents reclaim physical, economic, civic, and cultural spaces to abolish displacement, transform vacancy and waste into agency and opportunity, and redistribute power in community development and city planning. In collaboration with Tacoma Housing Authority and architectural firm Mithun, a group of community members came together under the moniker #DesignTheHill to design 250 units of affordable housing for families in the heart of the Hilltop’s MLK corridor in 2019. In 2020, this work became a reality as Hilltop community members worked with Forterra to transform a vacant Rite Aid site into a community cornerstone with affordable housing and commercial space prioritizing Hilltop residents and businesses.
“The single most important thing we can do to bring our historic neighbors back into the Hilltop is provide accessible opportunities for home and business ownership,” she said.
In 2020, Daniels was awarded the City of Tacoma’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Emerging Leader Award for her commitment to service and describes her work as “her love letter to the city.”
Andrea Ostrovsky - forest steward and greenspace activist.

Andrea Ostrovsky

Forterra’s Vice Chair, forest steward and greenspace advocate.
Andrea Ostrovsky - Forterra Board Member
Our spotlight today is on Andrea Ostrovsky, Vice Chair on Forterra’s Board of Directors. Andrea has been a Forest Steward in the Forterra and City of Seattle-sponsored Green Seattle Partnership for over ten years. Andrea is the co-founder of the Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mountainview, a volunteer community group dedicated to restoring Cheasty Greenspace, a 43-acre greenspace in the Rainier Valley. In 2013, Andrea received a Denny Award for Conservation and Environmental Stewardship.

Read below about the interesting work she does and the passions that drive it.

An Interview with Andrea Ostrovsky

Q: What drew you to forest stewardship and forest conservation initially?
A: I grew up in a part of Wisconsin that was rapidly changing from open farmland to suburbia. I noticed the landscape changing and was concerned how quickly a natural place could be taken over by development. Then, my first job out of college was on an AmeriCorps restoration crew in Vancouver, WA. I was planting native plants and removing invasive species that were impacting the local watershed – very similar to some of the work Forterra’s riparian team engages in today. I went on to lead that team for a year and, through that work as a young adult, solidified a belief that we have an obligation to try to repair the ecological damage we’ve done, and that we each can have a positive impact.
Q: Tell us more about your work at Cheasty Greenspace?

A: My family’s first home was on Beacon Hill and our backyard was adjacent to Cheasty Greenspace, part of the Olmstead legacy in Seattle. From my work with AmeriCorps, I knew that the forest wasn’t healthy. The deciduous trees were completely covered in ivy, the ground was covered in blackberry and there were too few native conifers growing underneath the existing tree canopy. I started doing some ‘rogue’ stewardship – cutting survival rings around trees, hacking away at the blackberry. It quickly became clear that we needed more people to be doing this work. 

 I reached out to the City of Seattle and was introduced to the Green Seattle Partnership and Forterra (then, Cascade Land Conservancy). I was also introduced to my neighbor and now dear friend, Mary DeJong, who was also inspired to clean up and help restore the forest. Our partnership developed into a dedicated group of volunteers who regularly work together to restore this greenspace. Now, more than a decade later, we have removed most of the non-natives, planted thousands of native plants, built a network of trails, and created a strong community of volunteers invested in this work.

Q: Who has inspired you?
A: I am inspired by all the volunteers who have given their time for years to help restore our urban parks. Parents, kids, students, neighbors – so many people have given up their Saturdays and Sundays to contribute to this effort. Cheasty is a great example of how much we can accomplish when we tackle this challenge together!
Q: How can a person start getting involved today?
A: If you are like me, and you enjoy getting your hands dirty (literally), sign up for a local restoration work party through the Green City Partnerships! That said, the ecological challenges we are facing are huge and require all of us to contribute to solutions. There are so many needs and so many ways to contribute. Given the challenges, my advice is: Find something you are passionate about, find a way to contribute, and stick with it!


Check out the links below to learn more about Cheasty Greenspace or volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood! 

Emilene Castillo - environmentalist, forest steward and force of nature.

emilene castillo

Environmentalist, forest steward and force of nature.


Our spotlight today is on Emilene Castillo, Forterra’s Stewardship Associate (Americorp). A graduate of San Francisco State University with a major in Environmental Science, Emilene’s passion for land and forestry stewardship and conservation is palpable and infectious. She is particularly focused on making the field of land stewardship and conservation more equitable and accessible, especially in BIPOC communities and getting youth involved.

“Negative impacts of environmental degradation disproportionately affect People of Color. We need to find ways to bring the BIPOC community into this work equitably because representation matters.” She said. 

Read more below about the interesting work she does and the passions that drive it.

An Interview with Emilene Castillo

Q: What drew you to forest stewardship and forest conservation initially?
A: Climate change affects the entire the world. Everything is interconnected and I want to do meaningful work and make a positive environmental impact. Being from Victorville, California drought was an ongoing issue, so I was drawn to healthy water solutions from an early age. What I like about Forterra is that it’s so diverse in doing good for the land. We are able to get people especially younger generations, involved in tangible forest stewardship work through education and hands on restoration.
Q: Who are some women that have influenced you in your passion/calling for forest stewardship?

A: My Mom was an early influence. She worked in the environmental health and safety field, and that was what exposed me to careers in the environmental field. During my undergraduate years the concepts of conservation, science, and activism really resonated with me. Marie Tharp was also a big influence. As a woman geologist in the 1950’s she and others like her, paved the way for women in science. Dolores Huerta was one of the most influential activists to me as I was learning about environmental and social issues in college. Her passion and drive was inspiring. She showed that despite all the obstacles, change was possible. Environmental issues and social issues are interconnected and I find lessons to be learned from scientists, activists, and educators, which has influenced my work in stewardship.

Q: What do you see as the biggest need right now in the mission for forest stewardship?
A: Direct action towards mitigating the impacts of climate change and having enough resources to build and grow this work. Forest stewardship needs to be sustainable because the work is ongoing. We can’t just leave these forests and lands to nature because just leaving them alone can be detrimental with introduced species negatively impacting in the long term. Active management of lands and forests is necessary and vital in keeping them healthy. Additionally making this field more equitable across all communities and getting youth involved. The negative impacts of environmental degradation disproportionately affect people of color. It’s important to look at how we can bring BIPOC communities into this work equitably and representation in decision-making roles matters.
Q: How can a person start getting involved today?

A: It’s as simple as joining a volunteer event or connecting with the land in a way that appreciates everything it offers. People can see and experience land stewardship in action in their own neighborhood. Just getting out to your local area to enjoy it, keep it clean, and support restoration efforts are just some examples of getting involved. People sharing knowledge and information within their own networks and growing partnerships within communities goes a long way so that everyone’s voices can be heard. Stewardship benefits everyone, and any action big or small is what keeps this work going.

Nettie Asberry - civil rights and social justice warrior.

nettie j. asberry

Civil Rights and Social Justice Warrior
Nettie Asberry, ca. 1925. Courtesy of S1992.2.47.6, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma (Wash.).
From the home of Nettie J. Asberry in Tacoma came sounds of her piano, of her typewriter and the voices of civil rights and suffrage advocates of the first half of the 20th century. Her legacy is storied. It is one of tireless devotion to people, place, and civil rights. Dr. Asberry was born in 1865, the youngest of six children but the first of her siblings to be born free of slavery.
Young Nettie studied piano from the age of eight and began composing her own music soon thereafter. She excelled and went on to earn an advanced degree from the Kansas Conservatory of Music and Elocution in 1883. Post-secondary academic degrees for Black women at that time were exceedingly rare.
In Kansas, she married Henry Asberry. The couple later moved to Tacoma where he made a name for himself as a successful businessman and barber to the likes of Mark Twain, William Rockefeller and Vice President Calvin Coolidge.
Dr. Nettie Asberry was a fighter for social justice and civil rights. The seed for lifelong activism was planted when, at the age of 13, Nettie attended a speech by Susan B. Anthony. Shortly thereafter, she joined her local Susan B. Anthony Club as its secretary.
Nettie was a robust leader. She led a campaign to have Black history taught in public schools. She founded the Tacoma City Association of Colored Women’s Club and the Tacoma chapter of the NAACP in 1913, the first chapter west of the Rockies. She led the fight for suffrage rights for women and Black people and gave music lessons from her home on 13th Street in Hilltop. In 1917, she became president of the Washington State Federation of Colored Women, which later became the Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
Though hers was a life of many achievements, one moment in Nettie’s civic life stands out. In 1916, the notorious and racist film “The Birth of a Nation” had been released in movie theaters across the United States. Based on the 1905 novel The Clansman, the film glorified violence against Black people and marks one of the darkest moments in American cinema.
As the secretary of a meeting at the Tacoma AME Church, Nettie forced herself to watch the violent movie to understand its motives. “I had lost my equilibrium. I was in fighting mood,” she was quoted as writing in her subsequent letter in August 1916 to the Tacoma Ledger to protest the movie’s local screening. “My sister, who was accompanying me strove to quiet me, but without avail. … No one can witness the production of The Birth of a Nation and be the same as before he saw it. No city can afford to have the equilibrium of its people disturbed.”
The movie still came to Tacoma, but Nettie’s voice and that of the AME Church was heard.
Dr. Nettie Asberry died at 103 in November 1968, having taught Black history and piano at her home at 1219 S. 13th Street for decades. In 1969, Tacoma mayor A.L. Rasmussen proclaimed May 11 to be Nettie J. Asberry Day.
Often powerful stories like Dr. Asberry’s get lost over time, but the Tacoma City Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (CWC), an organization that Dr. Asberry founded, wasn’t going to let that happen. Neither was Forterra. In 2020, CWC asked Forterra to join in to help to raise the funds to purchase her home and safeguard her legacy. The purchase was completed in 2022, ensuring that Dr Asberry will continue to inspire Washingtonians for generations to come. The Nettie J. Asberry home will be used as a community gathering place, where, if you close your eyes, you can still hear the music, the click of the typewriter and the voices fighting for civil rights.
Rebecca Bouchey - Director of Community Development of Forterra.

Rebecca Bouchey

Managing Director of Community Development with Forterra
As Managing Director of Community Development with Forterra, Rebecca Bouchey leads the team responsible for project concept development, acquisition, community driven design outreach and buyer education for Forterra’s Strong Communities Funds attainable housing projects. A Seattleite since pre-school, Rebecca has loved growing up in the PNW with its unique combination of culture and nature. Rebecca earned a JD from Seattle University in 1996 and became a Public Defender in Tacoma and Seattle where she ran a private practice for 16 years.
Seeing the changes in the PNW over the last two decades as housing rapidly became unaffordable, Rebecca became interested in working with communities to create more opportunities for affordable housing. In 2018, Rebecca earned her Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) from the University of Washington. It was during this MSRE program that Rebecca learned about Forterra, “When I heard Michelle Connor talk about Forterra, her vision of partnering with communities to grow development together, I was intrigued. I wanted to work with communities to plan for their future, not drop developments already planned onto communities. After years of seeing the impact of the criminal justice system on BIPOC communities, I wanted to work to strengthen the fabric of community. I saw the opportunity to do that with Forterra by working together with communities to increase the opportunities for attainable home ownership. An extra bonus for me was being able to return to Hilltop to do that with the Black community there.”
Since coming to Forterra, Rebecca and her team have worked with communities in the Hilltop (Tacoma), Tukwila, Hamilton, Darrington and Roslyn. Rebecca is passionate about partnering with local community residents to expand the options for sustainable and attainable home ownership, especially in BIPOC communities.
We asked Rebecca what she thinks are the three most important skills for effective and impactful community engagement for anyone interested in breaking into the field. She said:
  • Listening: Listen, take what you hear, and listen again—it is a constant call and response with community.
  • Collaboration: Working with others can be challenging and require more time to get things done, but you end up with a much better outcome if you take the space and time to do the work the right way.
  • Persistence: Keep showing up, think creatively, and work with the community to build something powerful together.

Check out the videos below to learn more about community engagement in the Hilltop Community.

Scroll to Top

Make your impact in Washington today and double your impact.

Hurry before time runs out!

Make your impact in Washington today so that people and nature can thrive together in a place where everyone belongs.

Get your gift in early and double your impact!