"When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first that is still to come."
Leonardo da Vinci
The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the U.S. where fresh water from the Central Valley mixes with the salt water of the Pacific. Crabs, clams, fish and birds live in its deepwater channels, marshes and tidelands.

Interview with Femke Freiberg

A Voice of Watershed Protection

By Sharon Gibbons

Femke Freiberg is a former TWP employee, and currently is the Manager of California Water Programs at the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. We spoke to her about TWP and the role watershed protection has played in her life. 

How many years where you an employee at TWP and how long ago did you leave?

I was an employee of TWP for 5 years. I left in fall 2013.

What was your role at TWP and how do you feel that experience has shaped your environmental career?

I served as both the SPAWNERS Coordinator as well as the Outreach Program Manager. My work with SPAWNERS and TWP taught me that small groups of committed citizens really can make a difference in the world. I was constantly amazed at what volunteers could accomplish during a shoreline cleanup or creek restoration work day. Working with volunteers of all ages and backgrounds also taught me the importance of finding common ground. Some folks may care about protecting creeks because they want a clean and fun place for their children to play, some folks may be more concerned about protecting habitat for fish, and others may be motivated by the opportunity to meet their neighbors and get fresh air and exercise. I learned that it’s important to respect and make room for everyone who shows up to pitch in to care for our watersheds.

My current job as Manager of California Water Programs at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is all about finding common ground among the various stakeholders concerned with rivers in California. Ranchers, fishermen and women, wildlife biologists, and winemakers alike all have reasons to care about river flows. My experience at TWP equipped me with the right tools and mindset to balance these interests and seek win-win solutions for people and the environment.

Think about a couple of your favorite “success stories” about the impact of the Watershed Project during your time at TWP.

I always think about how grateful I was to work with so many talented people who participated in TWP’s Environmental Careers Initiative. During the Great Recession, TWP had to tighten its belt in order to keep our doors open. At the same time, there were many people graduating from college or looking to transition their careers to work for the environment, but very few entry level jobs. We created an internship program that enabled people to build their skills in nonprofit management and environmental protection, while also enabling TWP to continue to run our programs across the Bay Area. There were times when interns outnumbered staff at the office! I still run into former interns at meetings and other events and am always so impressed by the new positions and projects these people are working on—everything from solar power to river flow restoration!

What does the Watershed Project mean to you and/or what did you learn from TWP that is still with you today?

TWP will always hold a very special place in my heart as it’s where I met my husband! Being married to someone who is as passionate about watershed protection as I am makes for lots of lively discussions and has even led us to volunteer together both in our local community and internationally.

TWP also solidified my commitment to protecting watershed health for both people and wildlife. In my new job at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, I think a lot about way to balance human needs and environmental needs. TWP’s mission to educate and inspire watershed stewards is so important to build a foundation of people who are committed to respecting natural cycles and systems, and also who really understand that everything is interconnected in a watershed.

Now that TWP is turning 20 what do you think we should do when we “grow up”?

It feels like now, more than ever, the Bay Area needs great opportunities for communities to come together to care for this place we call home. Keep up the great work!


February 2017