35 Innovators Under 35: Meet Gena Goodman-Campbell
Gena Goodman-Campbell, a third-generation Oregonian raised in Southeast Portland, credits her unique upbringing as the source of her unbridled passion for the environment. Growing up near the Oak Bottoms Wildlife Refuge, with an urban planner as a parent, she feels as though people sometimes take for granted Oregon’s strong conservation ethic and love of open space.
“Moving back to Oregon after college, I knew I wanted to help make our community a better place to live,” Goodman-Campbell said of her decision to escape the suburban sprawl she found in Colorado.
That first job after college was with the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG). She worked in Bend organizing college students at Central Oregon Community College on campaigns that ranged from hunger alleviation to wilderness protection.
In 2007, Gena went to work for the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), leading an effort to protect 30,000 acres of badlands affectionately referred to as ‘Bend’s Backyard Wilderness.’ Goodman-Campbell used the skills she learned as a community organizer to build alliances with Bend residents, business leaders, city councilors, and media outlets to communicate the values of, and the threats to, the Badlands natural area. Increasing support for the Badlands among nontraditional allies raised the profile of the campaign and demonstrated the importance of this beautiful area to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and other congressional members.
Wyden sponsored the Badlands Wilderness Act of 2008, which was signed into law by President Obama last year. Fresh off that victory, Goodman-Campbell became the Central Oregon Wilderness Coordinator at ONDA, working for protection of five new wilderness areas in region: Whychus Creek, Hampton Butte, Cougar Well, Gerry Mountain, and the South Fork Crooked River.
“I learned a lot from my work on the Badlands Bill,” she said. “Starting from scratch, it’s important to collaborate with diverse interests, build relationships with people in the community, and find common ground in order to gain support.”
Using her own upbringing as an example, Goodman-Campbell feels that exposing more children to the outdoors at an early age is key to creating the next generation of leaders.
“We need to instill a respect for nature at very young age, to explain why Oregon is such a special state,” she explained. “Once our land is protected as wilderness, it will be that way forever—for my children, for my children’s children, and generations after. What a special thing to work toward each day.”