Reclaiming Regenerative Ranching

Dallas Hall Defrees  I  Alumni  I  B.S. Biology  I  M.S. Rangeland Ecology and Management  I  Regenerative Ranching Program Director  I  Baker City, Oregon

An Oregonian in the Outdoors

I am a fifth-generation cattle rancher and native Oregonian. I enjoy spending my time outdoors whether that is working on my family ranch or recreating by hiking, skiing, or mountain biking. I love living in a small community and engaging with friends from different generations and backgrounds. I am most passionate about land stewardship and sustainable management that will grow and enhance the agricultural sector of society, especially at the individual family farming and ranching scale.

An Unexpected Passion

I have always been interested in biology and natural resource sciences. When I entered college I thought I wanted to do pre-med and I spent all of my college career pursuing that. However, I particularly enjoyed an ecology class that I took in undergrad and every summer I returned home to work on my family ranch. When I was a senior in college I had to work on an Honors’ thesis project. I chose to study mine tailing reclamation that my family had worked on by using the natural processes of cattle (trampling, inputting nutrients through manure and urine, etc.). The results were really staggering and was the first time I really understood how, if properly managed, cattle could become an asset to the land.

From that point on I really started becoming more interested in ecology and working lands. I took a couple years to work after I graduated with my bachelors and decided to pursue a Masters in Rangeland Ecology and Management in 2016. I had the opportunity to study how cattle grazing and timber management impacted vegetative communities in mixed conifer forests. I had a lot of fun with my masters research project and thrived off of continuing my education about rangeland ecology. Once I received my Master’s degree I found a job doing environmental consulting with a local engineering firm while moonlighting as a rangeland consultant. I learned so much in both of these roles and realized I wanted to pursue more rangeland restoration and landowner consulting. For the past few years I have worked as the Sage-grouse Coordinator in Baker County, an incredible opportunity where I have worked with landowners and agency partners to implement conservation work within Baker County. It has been an incredible job making a difference for the sagebrush ecosystem, but also the ranchers who use these valuable lands to support their livelihood.

Career Change

I am starting a new career as the Regenerative Ranching Program Director for Sustainable Northwest. This is a dream position for me and I am excited to be at the forefront of such an integral program. My continued interest and passion for healthy working lands has brought me to this point and I cannot wait to continue to learn and grow in this field. It was the slow burn of living and working on my families ranch that made me realize this was the career path I wanted to pursue.

Learning from Every Moment

I studied abroad when I was a senior in undergrad in Santander, Spain which was a fantastic experience. I have worked in both the public and private sector mostly located in eastern Oregon. I value my experiences working for both the public and private sector because I am able to relate to both sides and bridge a very present gap (especially in Agriculture) between landowners and land management agencies. With all of these positions I really enjoyed being able to work outside and meet professionals from different walks of life. I think every experience is a learning opportunity and it is important to utilize your experiences to inform you as you make future career decisions.

Paving a Path for Others

As a woman you can face challenges professionally and I have absolutely experienced that and it can be difficult to navigate those scenarios. I, luckily, have had some incredible female mentors and professional role models that helped me address those challenges. Remaining confident and believing in the value that you provide is key to overcoming those challenges. As a new mother I still feel the challenge of balancing my professional career and family. I think it is so important for people to know that you are not alone and every professional is carving a path for the people following behind them, so when you are advocating for yourself you are also advocating for all those that are following behind you.

Set Yourself Up for Success

The best advice I can provide is to set yourself up for success. Most people don't know exactly where they want to end up professionally and even if they do, it often isn't a straight path to get there. In every aspect of your career make sure you are doing your best to set yourself up to reach the next step. That may mean getting good grades, working on networking, working hard in a job that you may not care that much about. Each step is important in your career and you never know when something from your past will be the defining moment for your future career.