“People call it drive-by country, but if you take the time to look closely, there’s a lot of beauty, a lot of color, a lot of wildlife,” Griffen says of the semiarid desert in southeastern Oregon. That’s where she works as a restoration project manager with the Nature Conservancy, in partnership with Oregon Desert Land Trust. Griffen oversees creeks, streams, and wet meadows on 16,000 acres owned by the land trust, plus a half-million acres of public grazing land. To restore this wildlife habitat, Griffen takes a cue from one of nature’s best floodplain engineers.
“We’re using a lot of beaver mimicry—going into streams and building fake beaver dams,” she says. “This helps fix the hydrology, which helps fix the vegetation. Then the beavers slow water down, spread it out, and allow meadows to act like sponges.”
A linguistics major who earned her master’s in natural resources and ecological planning, Griffen lives in Baker City, Oregon, with her son and husband. “My work doesn’t just fulfill my responsibility to steward the places that sustain us,” she says. “It’s also restorative.”