Rick was one of the founders of Pacific Rivers and returned to the board in 2017
Rick George has always been connected to moving water. Though he swam competitively in pools and water-skied extensively in damned rivers, his preference has always been for rivers flowing with life and sound.
Raised in La Grande in NE Oregon’s Blue Mountains, he developed a deep respect for and appreciation of the Grande Ronde River. Fishing with his dad and family and friends established a permanent tie to the Grande Ronde, including the Wallowa, Lostine and Catherine Creek. He learned that you understand a river when you pick huckleberries, hunt, fish and hike a river. It’s more than swimming and rafting.
In 1986 Rick met Bob Doppelt and together they corralled and cajoled enough river lovers, fishers and rafters to organize the skeleton of the Oregon Rivers Council. Auspiciously the early organizational meetings were held at the Oregon Zoo.
Rick was offered and accepted the executive director position for the poorly funded, newest environmental group on the Oregon block. The tenacious character, generosity and non-profit experience of ORC’s first board members, funders and volunteers provided the collective ability to persevere and succeed. And succeed ORC did. From navigating the rough and tumble field of Oregon’s established and powerful environmental groups, to balancing the coincident state and federal river protection campaigns, ORC worked closely with Sen. Mark O. Hatfield and Rep. Les AuCoin to pass an historic Wild and Scenic Rivers bill that added 40 of Oregon’s best. And in one of his best job duties ever, Rick toured (inventoried) most of Oregon’s rivers by shore, boat, plane, story and an occasional bourbon with those that knew and loved “their” rivers best.
After the successful Wild and Scenic Rivers campaign established ORC’s territory, Rick left the organization to start a federal river ranger program on the Grande Ronde and Wallowa rivers and then in 1989 a career with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Natural resources policy, strategic planning, tribal treaty rights and political affairs work in Washington, D.C. and in Oregon’s and Washington’s capitols defined that 21 year career from his offices on the Reservation. In addition to valued political experience Rick was also schooled in the art and science of working with real people – farm and ranch owners, tribal people, business people and local elected officials.
In spite of his love for La Grande and secret promise he would never live in Pendleton, Rick and his family moved to Pendleton to avoid the dangers of the short but hazardous daily winter drive commute to the Reservation.
In 2011 Rick and Kathleen and family moved from Pendleton to a small farm outside of McMinnville, Oregon to allow Kathleen to return to her own Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde as the new director of Spirit Mountain Community Fund. That left Rick the freedom to have some fun working several different jobs including vice president at Ecotrust, contract environmental policy work in Salem and now planning department manager for the Grand Ronde Tribes. Mostly Rick is still in recovery from the transition from northeastern Oregon’s rivers, snowy winters, and dearth of people to western Oregon’s rain, mist, moss, moisture and crowds. Hmmm. (And BTW Kathleen is now an elected Tribal Council Woman at Grand Ronde).
In his spare time Rick owns a private firearms sales business, loves spending time with family on the Grande Ronde River and in Troy, Oregon. Rick is fortunate to have 3 sons, Dylan in Eugene and Sean and Noah still at home, Kathleen’s mother is part of their household and his parents close by in Corvallis. He continues to make up as many excuses as possible to return home to the Grande Ronde and hopes his recent acceptance of a board position for Pacific Rivers might contribute.