It’s early days yet, but Cindi Confer Morris is excited to get going in her new position as Okanogan Highlands Area Manager for Washington State Parks.
“I’m still kind of getting my feet under me,” she said.
Confer Morris was appointed as the area manager for the Okanogan Highlands region following the retirement of Rick Lewis. She started in March. She’ll oversee Pearrygin Lake State Park near Winthrop, Conconully State Park and Curlew Lake State Park.
After attending Oregon State University, where she became interested in wildlife science, Confer Morris has previously worked for the U.S. Forest Service, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Most recently, Confer Morris was at Fish and Wildlife’s Wenas Wildlife Area in Yakima County. In the 1990s, while working for a consulting company, she worked in the Methow doing deer track and spotted owl surveys.
While she didn’t manage campgrounds at the Wenas Wildlife Area, Confer Morris said the principles of the jobs overlap.
“It’s still land management and it’s still personnel, people management … and that’s something I really enjoy,” she said.
The Wenas Wildlife Area is also predominantly shrub steppe, like Okanogan County.
“It’s amazing just how fragile that stuff is,” she said. “It just is so easily damaged by use.”
Because of its central location among the three parks, Confer Morris plans to make Conconully her headquarters. Brian Alexander, park manager at Pearrygin Lake, will manage the day-to-day activities there, she said. Confer Morris said the move will help her prioritize all three parks.
“[Conconully and Curlew] are smaller and they’re quieter,” she said. “I think moving up here to Conconully will really help me to spend more time dealing with Curlew and Conconully and just giving them more attention than I would have if I was down at Pearrygin.”
Coming to Okanogan County, with its vast tracts of open land won’t be a huge adjustment for Confer Morris.
“I’m used to country living,” she said. “We were just raised that way. We spent a lot of time outdoors growing up. Both sets of grandparents had farms. We were out running around all the time as kids.”
In fact, two of her three siblings also went into natural sciences — one is a botanist and the other a fisheries biologist.
“It’s that desire to want to do good things and protect some of these areas and with parks, to bring that to the public and to be able to do it in a way that allows for good experiences for the public and that interaction with nature and with wildlife,” she said, about her career path. “We need to protect some of these areas and we need to respect wildlife.”