Who we are

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

Volunteers are the backbone of our ecological protection work. Every year, dozens of our volunteers help field survey timber sales and grazing allotments across National Forest lands in eastern Oregon. Volunteers also help with comment writing, research, and other work. If you are interested in volunteering, please see our “get involved” page and contact us.

Tom Buchele

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project’s Board of Directors:

Tom Buchele is the managing attorney and clinical professor for the Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School.  Tom anchors Earthrise’s legal practice as the senior coordinator of environmental initiatives. Prior to joining Earthrise, Tom was the director of the environmental law clinic at University of Pittsburgh for seven years, staff attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest, and a partner in the Chicago office of the prestigious national law firm Jenner & Block, where he focused on complex commercial and natural resources litigation. A distinguished graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and the University of Illinois College of Law, Tom leads Earthrise’s land management and natural resource practice, including mining, oil and gas issues. In his spare time, Tom is an excellent gardener and baker, and enjoys canning, hiking and exploring tidepools up and down the Oregon coast.

Monica Bond

Monica Bond is a wildlife biologist and biodiversity advocate with the Wild Nature Institute. She is a graduate of the first year of Green Corps, the field school for environmental organizing, and has worked as an Endangered Species Act grassroots organizer for the National Wildlife Federation and a staff biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity, where she fought urban sprawl and protected forests from damaging logging. Monica has conducted field research on Gray-tailed Voles, Western Burrowing Owls, Spotted Owls, Black-backed Woodpeckers, Arboreal Salamanders, Northern Elephant Seals, Hawaiian Monk Seals, and Masai Giraffes. She received her M.S. degree in Wildlife Science from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and her PhD in Ecology in the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. She travels around the world researching and advocating for the conservation of imperiled wildlife and habitats.

Sophie Smith

Sophie Smith grew up in Portland, Oregon. She has volunteered with BMBP’ssummer field program since 2014, and collaborated with BMBP on solidarity statements for migrant justice. Sophie is a local organizer and aid worker engaged in community resistance to border militarization in the small rural town of Arivaca, Arizona. She has worked extensively with humanitarian organizations focused on ending migrant deaths and suffering on the southern border as co-founder of  People Helping People in the Border Zone and as a facilitator of No More Death’s desert aid program. She is a tireless advocate for migrant justice and human rights issues, and has been involved with numerous projects such as helping to co-author the Disappeared series of abuse documentation reports published by No More Deaths. She received her Doctorate of Philosophy degree from the Graduate Program of Literature at Duke University. Her dissertation examined the effects of militarization of the US southern border. She currently teaches gender, politics, and global health courses for the National Nurses United union’s continuing education program through Rutgers University.

Karen Coulter, BMBP’s Director, and Paula Hood, BMBP’s Co-Director, are also Board Members.

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project has a small paid staff; their bios are below. You can contact Karen Coulter, our Director at 541-385-9167 and Paula Hood, our Co-Director at 510-715-6238.

Karen Coulter

Karen Coulter, Director of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project:

Karen co-founded the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project with Asante Riverwind in 1991. Karen has been fighting to defend and restore forests on public lands in eastern Oregon ever since then. In the early days of the Project, she field checked timber sales on horseback. Karen spent over 14 years living off-grid with her family and their livestock in rural eastern Oregon. Their teepee home and most of their belongings were lost during a wildfire. Karen now lives in a more fire resistant straw bale cabin on the eastside.

Karen has 30 years of experience doing public lands advocacy as the Director of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project. She has been surveying timber sales every summer since the project’s inception. Karen has long-term and first-hand familiarity with the ecology of the region, as well as extensive understanding of land management issues. Karen is an extremely effective and passionate voice for forests. She asserts that: “human and ecological issues are indivisible. Humans are rapidly destroying the planet—the forests, the oceans, species biodiversity, and the global climate. We must deal with social and political inequality and injustice in order to stop ecological devastation.”

Karen is a long-time activist, and has dedicated her life to environmental and social justice causes. Her past work includes international negotiations on acid rain and ozone depletion for Greenpeace International, and campaigning to stop the Reagan era MX missile plans with the American Friends Service Committee. She has also been part of the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, which was formed by an alliance of environmentalists and labor union organizers. She was a principal activist of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy, and did research, writing, and speaking about the history of the rise of corporate power in the U.S. and lessons from past activists’ struggles. Her principles for protection of the wild are based on Deep Ecology and Biocentrism. She has a master’s of English from Reed College.

“I’ve always found peace, wonder, and teachings in the wild. Without the wild we are lost spiritually. My message is this: Follow your passion to bring about change.”—Karen 

Paula bio
Paula Hood

Paula Hood, Co-Director of Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project:

Paula has spent over eighteen years working on behalf of forests and wildlands in Oregon. She volunteered with Bark (a monitoring group for Mt. Hood National forest) to defend forests on public lands through activist organization, public outreach, leading hikes, and field surveying.

In 2015, Paula received her master’s degree in environmental science from Portland State University, with a focus on streams in forested ecosystems. Her thesis research investigated the effects of forest thinning on stream sediment loading and macroinvertebrate assemblages in the Clackamas River Basin in Mt. Hood National Forest,Oregon.

Before moving to Oregon, Paula lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She spent ten years working at independent natural foods co-ops and worker-owned collectives that focused on whole foods, sustainable farming, social justice, environmental causes, and the arts. Paula has also spent time in southern Oregon, Oakland, Europe, and Central and South America.

Paula grew up in Louisiana, where she caught crawfish with her bare hands (and let them go), was stalked by venomous snakes, swam in muddy lakes, and generally loved the swamps and woodlands. Her childhood in Louisiana inspired a deep-seated love of the wilds that continues to shape her life today. Paula’s family on her mother’s side is from the coastal areas of Ecuador. Her grandparents were cattle ranchers and coconut farmers in Ecuador’s Manabí province, where Paula’s mother grew up on a self-sufficient and isolated farm that overlooked the ocean. Her family’s experiences were instrumental in influencing her work ethic and her relationship with nature.

Austin Starnes

Austin Starnes is the newest addition to BMBP’s small staff. Austin has been hired to fill BMBP’s Staff Attorney position, which he will be stepping into in the fall of 2022. After working with BMBP as part of Earthrise Law Center’s Student Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School, we’re excited to welcome him aboard our BMBP staff team!

Austin grew up in a small town in central Indiana before moving to Bloomington to pursue an undergraduate degree in Business Economics and Public Policy Analysis at Indiana University. Unwilling to take part in the exploitation of our planet’s resources for profit, he forwent the corporate life and moved across the country to study environmental law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. Drawn to the forests, he focused his academics on public lands issues while gaining practical experience volunteering with the Northwest Environmental Defense Center’s (NEDC) Public Lands & Wildlife group and participating in the Earthrise Clinic.

Austin previously served as a Project Coordinator for NEDC’s Public Lands & Wildlife group before being hired as NEDC’s Law Clerk for the 2021-2022 school year. With NEDC, he engaged in substantive legal and policy work and coordinated student leadership and volunteers as they tackled important environmental advocacy issues in the PNW.

The son of a grade school teacher, Austin believes environmental advocacy and education go hand-in-hand. He’s excited to continue his mission of conserving and protecting the incredibly important ecosystems of the Blue Mountains and Eastern Oregon and Washington while continuing to learn, teach, and improve as an environmental advocate. In his free time, Austin enjoys getting outside whenever possible to bird watch, hike, run, and camp.

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