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Whidbey Camano Land Trust welcomes new conservation director

Ryan and Marthë Elting stand with their daughter Alma en route to the Whidbey Island. - Contributed photo
Ryan and Marthë Elting stand with their daughter Alma en route to the Whidbey Island.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Ryan Elting is as excited about his new job as his new home.

“I’m in love,” Elting said of moving to Whidbey Island this month to serve as conservation director for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.

“My jaw drops every time I see the Olympic Mountains on my way to work. I’m so happy to be able to raise my daughter here.”

The position, formerly the land acquisition manager, has been vacant for two years, according to Pat Powell, the Land Trust’s executive director.

Powell said the role was upgraded to conservation director for Elting because of the breadth of his experience in natural resource management and land protection.

“It’s really what I wanted,” Powell said. “We didn’t think we would find it.”

Previously, Elting worked for The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina.

In 2008, Elting attended a conference in Vancouver, B.C. and visited Orcas Island where he was taken by the island’s natural beauty and vowed to return. A couple of years later, he attended a wedding on Orcas and met his wife, Marthë, a Northwesterner. They were married and moved to North Carolina and now have a daughter, Alma.

The family’s return to Puget Sound allows Marthë to be closer to her family, and the family to experience the Northwest’s endless outdoor opportunities.

“We wanted to live in a place where we’d have access to this world-class landscape,” Elting said. “My wife and I both identify with the water and mountains and are constantly inspired by the beauty.”

Elting holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies from Tufts University and a master’s degree in environmental management from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. Previously he directed longleaf pine forest restoration programs for the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

As part of a fellowship he also assisted with land conservation in Zambia, Africa.

“When we winnowed down the applications, his was clearly of the most interest,” Powell said. “The passion that came through the cover letter … and he really impressed us in the interview process.”

As conservation director, Elting will coordinate land acquisitions and grants, and provide stewardship and restoration of lands already under Land Trust protection.

The Land Trust was incorporated in 1984 to protect the islands’ natural habitats, scenic vistas and working farms in partnership with landowners and the broader community.

Elting started his new job April 1 and has jumped into writing grant applications and learning about the Land Trust’s properties and land protection priorities, Powell said.

“We could not imagine a better place to raise our family,” Elting said. “An active and vibrant community is important to Marthë and me, and we’re thrilled to be part of one here on Whidbey.”

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