Heather Wheeler, Land Steward
My passion for natural resource conservation started with radical environmental activism during adolescence. At that time, nonviolent “direct action” felt like an effective strategy to defend our forests against logging. During my wild and free teen years, I would spend months camped high up in old growth canopies during tree sitting protests, and I truly felt like I was living on the front lines of ecological advocacy.
Eventually I realized that the campaigns I was so devoted to often involved questionable and violent behavior. Some of which resulted in very tragic events on a few occasions. There had to be a better way to play an active role in defending the natural resources I cherish so deeply...
After 15 years of learning and exploring, I’ve discovered a genuine possibility of contributing to the preservation of our natural treasures here in Oregon.
Moving past the civil disobedience approach of my youth has led me to different forms of “direct action” that are more aligned with my values. Instead of protesting against the government agencies that manage our regional forests, I’ve enjoyed working with Oregon Department of Forestry and US Forest Service, through internships and professional partnerships. Being active in the community to educate citizens and children about the benefits of trees and how to care for our forests feels much more effective, as another approach to protecting the future of our natural resources.
Setting out on my path of ecological advocacy began with enhancing my tree climbing skills with arboriculture classes at Clackamas Community College, while working for a small gardening company. Curiosity led me to take other classes in environmental science, ecology, botany, and then lots of classes in Horticulture - which became my major. It didn’t take long for me to learn that climbing trees with chainsaws was not a good fit, so that idea was quickly bypassed. My focus turned to landscape design. I earned an Associate degree from Clackamas CC, and arborist certification through the International Society of Arboriculture.
After graduating, I started my own business offering garden maintenance. This lasted a few years, until I decided to go back to school and advance my degree to a Bachelor of Science at OSU, with an option in Ecological Landscapes and Urban Forestry.
Over the course of my academic journey, I continued working at gardening jobs, at garden centers, and even a short period of co-owning a small tree care business. None of these jobs felt like my true “calling,” and I longed to find rewarding work with meaning. After doing some deep soul searching, I decided to start my own business, again, to pick up where I left off and aim to reach greater heights. With the help of the small business resources at Mercy Corps NW, I obtained my landscape contractor license, then became bonded and insured. Piece by piece, I built my business and gained momentum.
Land stewardship is by far the most meaningful work I’ve ever done. I invite you to follow along with my story as I share pieces along the way. I hope you, too, will become a steward of the land.
Oregon Landscape Contractor
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• Oregon State University, Bachelor of Science. Horticulture:
Ecological Landscapes and Urban Forestry.
• Clackamas Community College, Associate of Science. Horticulture.
• Leave No Trace
• Association of Northwest Landscape Designers (ANLD)
• Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO)
• Home Orchard Society
• Audubon Society of Portland
• A founding member of Albina Neighborhood Tree Team (ANTT)