We had the good fortune of connecting with Nancy Steele and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nancy, what inspires you?
I am inspired by the awesome beauty of the world around me. I am inspired by the sunrise, by the song of a curve-billed thrasher, by the brilliant red of a northern cardinal, by the intricate shapes and sizes of all kinds of flowers, large and small. I am inspired by the mountains, the rivers, and meadows. It is because of the beauty of this world that I work to keep nature wild.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I took a long and winding road to my career as a nonprofit executive leading conservation groups. As I child, I wanted to be a scientist and everything I did pointed in that direction. But sometimes we surprise ourselves. While earning my masters in science degree, I decided not to continue on that path. I thought maybe I would be a high school teacher, but that didn’t work out, either. I spent a lot of time puzzling over what I wanted to do and decided to devote my life to environmental work. I earned my doctorate in environmental science and engineering from UCLA and began working for the California EPA. In nine years I worked for three state agencies in five different jobs doing everything from enforcing environmental laws to writing regulations. But I still wasn’t happy. I discovered the work that fulfilled me when I founded a land trust, an organization that would identify imperiled Wildlands and buy those lands to preserve then for all time. I have now led three different but similar organizations focused on land and river conservation. I learned to keep trying, keep exploring, keep learning, and never give up. My most important life goal is to work for the betterment of our world. Without a healthy environment, people can’t survive. Whether you know it or not, nature is the driving force, the reason why we humans exist. We can’t do without nature and it is up to us to take care of it.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I work for Friends of the Verde River, a river conservation group in Cottonwood, Arizona. So for a week long trip, I would take my best friend hiking in Cottonwood and nearby Sedona. One of my favorite walks is around the ponds and through the mesquite forests at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. We would drive through Oak Creek Canyon and window-shop for art in Sedona. I always take people to Tlaquepaque for the art galleries, interesting stores, and many restaurants. I also like the shops and restaurants in Cottonwood’s Old Town on Main Street. We would kayak the Verde River, maybe stopping after a relaxing float on the river for a glass of wine at Alcantara. Don’t miss Page Springs Cellars in Cornville for the wine, food, and location on Oak Creek. There are 26 wineries on the Verde Valley Wine Trail and the region has been officially recognized as an American Viticulture Area (AVA). We also have many great restaurants – too many to list. And we would be sure to visit Jerome up on the hill. Jerome is a historic mining town that has been taken over by artists, vintners, and restauranteurs. A week would be too short!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents, who took me camping, hiking, and backpacking all throughout the southwest.

Website: https://verderiver.org

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancysteele/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/verderiverfriends

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