Suzi Cloutier is a Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District Conservation Specialist. She joined the District staff in July, 2021. Prior to working with the District, she worked with Clackamas River Basin Council (CRBC). CRBC is one of the nine watershed councils located within Clackamas County and a valued partner to the District. It covers the Clackamas River Basin from the Mt. Hood National Forest all the way down to Damascus and Oregon City.
Cloutier Has Water Quality and Habitat Experience
Conservation Specialists collaborate with landowners to successfully implement practices to protect water quality and conserve natural resources. Their technical expertise and experience covers working lands such as ranches, farms, and forests. They also help landowners with native habitat restoration and watershed health. Their knowledge and skills are a valuable resource for rural and urban landowners alike.
Cloutier is a fine addition the the District staff. She began her career as a fish biologist working to help protect salmon habitat on commercial forestry operations. She spent seven years as a crew lead for the Northwest Service Academy which was an AmeriCorps program focused on environmental service. From there, she worked with Willamette Riverkeeper where she the water quality coordinator for the entire Willamette River.
In 2015, Cloutier joined the Clackamas River Basin Council as their Outreach and Stewardship Manager. There, she was responsible for the council’s Shade our Streams program. This program enrolls and supports landowners to maintain or create 30 miles of stream-side coverage along Clackakmas River. The shade created by this coverage keeps the water temperature cool This ensures better habitat for native fish who live in the river. The coverage also helps to prevent erosion of the stream bank and limits run off and other pollution that might enter the river. This means better fish habitat, but also improved water quality for the over 300,000 people who rely on the Clackamas River for drinking water.
Cloutier Also Has Horse and Pasture Experience
In 1998, Cloutier and her husband founded Zeb’s Wish, an equine sanctuary and rescue for elder, abandoned, and special needs animals. She has deep ties in her community to people who care for horses, donkeys, mules and the occasional other farm animal that might need help. She coordinates care and foster placement and manages a sizeable volunteer base. Her non-profit also offers equine assisted learning programs, school field trips, service learning classes, and retreats at the sanctuary in Sandy, Oregon.
Cloutier’s work with Zeb’s Wish puts her in contact with many local farmers, horse owners, and land managers. She helped rescue and board animals during the 2020 wildfires that swept Clackamas County. Her broad knowledge and ability to connect meaningfully with people (and animals) enables her to help get the right resources to the right people at the right time. That’s a valuable skill set for a conservation planner, especially in an area where there are so many horses!
Cloutier shares that she was interested in wildlife and conservation from an early age. She grew up in California “with thousands of rolling acres of black oak and range land all around me.” When she was in middle school, she experienced first-hand the development of the ranch land around her home. “Streams were straightened into ditches; hills were shaved because builders couldn’t build over a certain elevation. All of the wildlife disappeared. It was heartbreaking,” she says.
“‘I’ve always loved horses,” says Cloutier. “I came from an animal loving family and was a quiet, shy kid. I spent a lot of time with horses and just sitting out in nature. I’m a watcher. Even now, I’m happy to just go sit in a field and watch bugs.”
“As a conservation planner, I want to help landowners know that they can manage livestock in a way that is good for the environment,” says Cloutier. “I’ve always want to help make the world a better place. I feel my highest calling is to inspire others.” With the resources available to her through the District, Cloutier believes she will be able to help many landowners in the District. “I speak their language. We can all do the things that we are passionate about and still be great land stewards.”
“My position with the District is the most amazing confluence of passions for me personally,” shares Cloutier. “I can combine my love of farming, animal welfare, and the environment.” She notes that her first experience with the District was as a landowner. “The conservation planner came out to our property and helped us put together a conservation plan. We were able to install an oxygen-assisted compost system to manage the manure from the sanctuary. Our planner helped us find financial resources to build the composter. We now use the compost to top dress our pastures and we also donate it to people for their gardens.”
In between District projects and her work at the non-profit, Cloutier still finds time for fun. She is a competitive dragon boat and outrigger racer. She also helps train a team of “Special Dragons” for the Special Olympics for the Portland Rose Festival.