Leonard is a native Oregonian, his family’s roots here predate Oregon statehood. Leonard was born in Canyonville, Oregon and lived as a child in the Days Creek, community. He grew up on a small farm bordering the South Umpqua river. The years of his youth were spent hunting, fishing and trapping the forests and streams of the Umpqua Basin. This gave him first hand knowledge of the bioregion and a particular sensitivity to its many wonders. In particular he has seen
firsthand the benefits of an active beaver population upon the landscape. His father taught him a deep abiding respect for the beaver and the role they play in our aquatic ecosystems.
Like most Douglas County, Oregon residents Leonard spent most of his life working in forestry related industries. His entire career covered a range of skill sets that ranged from pre-commercial contracting to helicopter logging throughout the western United States. As an active volunteer Founding member of the SURCP Board of Directors Leonard continues to earn his living in the timber industry.
Returning several decades later to the forests of his youth, Leonard was shocked to find the degraded state of the watershed habitat. Gone were the beavers. The pristine river and streams systems were now radically changed. The spawning beds and rearing ponds created by the beaver had become scoured out bedrock bottoms or barren rock bars. He took note that millions of dollars were being spent annually to restore aquatic habitat and the Umpqua anadromus fish runs. It was easy for him to see that the beaver dams and ponds of his youth were all but gone. This experience led to a time of deep inner searching. The end result was that Leonard turned his heart and mind to giving back to the land that had so richly supported him and hist family. The choice was self evident and the winds of change were beckoning.
Ecological forest restoration was rapidly growing as an additional tool to existing management practices and provided the opportunity to earn a living and give back simultaneously. Having entered into ecological forest restoration the step to streams and beavers was inevitable. With Lois Houston at his side he began intensive beaver ecology research. He began an inventory beaver populations of the Umpqua Basin. He engaged in an extensive beaver habitat suitability indexing project. and other State and Federal research projects.
Leonard and Lois formed the Beaver Advocacy Committee ( BAC ) under the umbrella of the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership.
The Houstons are founding members of SURCP and have been active participants in the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership before it received its 5013(C) status in 2006. He joined the South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership’s Board of Directors in 2015. It has been a rewarding decade of growth, organizational and personal. Leonard looks forward to the continued support and engagement of SURCP and its committees in our commitments to sustainable economic development through ecological restoration and enhancement of our terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Under the leadership of Leonard, SURCP has hosted a biannual conference called the State of the Beaver in Canyonville, Oregon at the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe convention center. Habitat restoration specialists from across the United States and the world have attended these events. These conferences have achieved great notoriety world wide having coalesced beaver ecology science and scientists for the furthering of this natural method of habitat restoration.
His deep rooted commitment to community service and ecological restoration of the region have made him a critical element of SURCP’s success.