Placement: Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs and the Center for Natural Land Management
Position: Prairie Restoration Coordinator
Hello, my name is Matthew West. I am from Richland, Washington also known as the Tri-cities. I grew fond of the local environment there which is categorized as shrub steppe and is one of the rarest ecosystems on earth. I fished the Columbia River for the pride of the Pacific Northwest, Chinook salmon. At a young age I watched the salmon populations dwindle and the environment become subjugated to suburban sprawl. I have two brothers and was raised by my father who was known to get out of the car and pick but cigarette butts people flicked on the ground and give it back to them at a stop light. He helped instill the foundations in me to become a steward of the environment. By the time I was a senior in high school I realized I wanted to work to preserve these amazing landscapes and animals for future generations. But considering neither my father, mother, nor grandparents had ever gone to college I never thought I would have the chance to pursue my dream career.
I graduated from Hanford High School in 2004 and promptly joined the US Navy that summer. In the Navy I worked as an Aviation Ordnancemen and finished top of my class which gave me access to first pick of orders. I picked orders working on the P-3 Orion (Anti-Submarine Warfare) in Kaneohe, Hawaii. There I saw pristine waterfalls, immaculate corals, and awe inspiring volcanoes. Witnessing these magnificent landscapes further pulled me towards caring for the environment. I was deployed all over the world and was subjugated to some of the worst air quality in the world which reminded me how lucky I was to have been raised in a country that has stringent environmental regulations. In some of these countries the main disposal of garbage was to burn and on these burn days it was hazardous to go outside. When I saw rubber falling from the sky and covering beautiful views in ash, it galvanized my resolve to become a leader in environmental stewardship.
I was honorably discharge from the US Navy in 2009 and started attending Central Washington University paid for by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. There I persued my dream and within three years I attained a Bachelors of Sconce degree in environmental science. Without the Navy I would have never had the chance to attend college and even if I did without the skills I learned in the service I would have never been able to finish. Which is why I’m very excited to start working for the Mt. Adams institute where I will be working with veterans, active duty, and citizens to preserve and restore the Prairies of the Puget sound. I hope to teach people how to care for and make a difference in the natural world.