Like me, you may have seen former Methow Valley District Ranger Mike Liu out hiking in the backcountry, fishing in local waterways, volunteering on trails, or swimming in Patterson Lake during the past year or so. You may have heard about Mike’s fabulous trips to North India, Nepal, China, Thailand and Indonesia. And like me, you probably thought, “Wow, that guy is really enjoying his retirement!” So like me, you may be greatly surprised to hear that Mike is coming out of retirement after just 18 months of livin’ the dream.
About two weeks ago, Mike began a new job at the Washington Conservation Associate for Conservation Northwest (CNW), whose mission it is to protect, connect and restore wildlands and wildlife from the Washington coast to the British Columbia Rockies. Working part-time out of his home in Twisp, with the title Okanogan Forest Lead, Mike says that his new job will allow him to work across boundaries on state and federal land on landscape management and conservation projects through CNW’s Forest Field Program, which “advances the use of the latest scientific research while engaging collaboratively with other stakeholders to promote landscape-scale restoration of forests and watersheds, applying field experience to shape national and regional policies through forest collaboration, media exposure, lobbying, and public support and involvement.”
Despite the change in agency, Mike says that some of the priorities he had as District Ranger will be the same in his new job, chiefly, “connecting communities with the forests and wild places that they are passionate about.” In his role with the U.S. Forest Service, Mike says, “I was working from the inside out, but at CNW I’ll be working from the outside in.”
Mike says that at the Forest Service, he focused on three Rs: relationships, recreation and restoration projects. At CNW, he turns his attention to the three Cs: conservation, community and collaboration. “My goal is to support local, state and federal land managers in increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration to improve ecological function, enhance resilience, and reduce the risks of severe wildfire,” he says. “This includes maintaining soil productivity, watershed health and critical wildlife habitats as well as collaborating with community leaders, outdoor recreationists, businesses and landowners. Through Conservation Northwest, I hope to facilitate partnerships that will result in additional funding for forest health projects guided by the best available science, as well as healthy community engagement and discussion on issues important to the Methow Valley and north central Washington.”
Regarding his motivation to re-enter the work force so soon after waving it bye-bye, Mike says “I still have a passion for landscape management and connecting communities with forests. The CNW job seemed written just for me, putting me in a role to help maintain wild places that we all love.”
Also, Mike adds, the CNW is part-time and flexible, enabling him to still get out into the mountains to hike and fish, as well as to travel. “I think of myself as ‘semi-retired,’” he says. And, of course, “all that travel and all my toys still cost money!” The CNW job, Mike says, gives him a discretionary travel budget as well as a way to stay professionally involved with the great outdoors and with other recreational users.
You can learn more about Mike’s new role at CNW by visiting www.conservationnw.org. You’ll need to wait a week or two to contact him, however, as he’s heading to Hawaii on a trip he had planned before accepting the CNW job. “Then I’ll buckle down and get to work,” Mike says, his mind already on pineapples and surfing the curl.
This “semi-retired” thing is looking better all the time.