After nearly a dozen years with SYRCL, and five years at the helm of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), Melinda Booth will step down as Executive Director following the 21st anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in February 2023. Booth served in a number of leadership roles at SYRCL over the years. She was hired in 2011 as the Director of Development and Wild & Scenic Events, leading all fundraising efforts at SYRCL including the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. In 2015, she transitioned to Wild & Scenic Film Festival Director as the organization grew and the job she was hired into became two positions. In 2017 she was promoted to Executive Director where she has remained.
“My time at SYRCL has been incredibly rewarding—this community is remarkable and I am honored to have contributed to SYRCL’s growth and successes over the years. This was a difficult decision, but one ultimately made to support what is best for my family, which has us leaving the area,” shared Melinda Booth, Executive Director. “I’m particularly proud of growing the Wild & Scenic Film Festival into the robust event it is today—both locally and with our On Tour program—and of expanding and building strong external partnerships in order to achieve conservation successes at the pace and scale needed to make a meaningful difference to the watershed and our community.”
“SYRCL has continued to thrive as an organization under Melinda’s leadership, positioning itself firmly in the community as the voice for the Yuba. The board is sad to see her go. Melinda’s indefatigable leadership has stewarded major restoration initiatives all along the watershed, and her clarity and passion have kept us all informed and engaged in policies and positions for the benefit of the river. SYRCL is a better organization for her having been its director,” lauded SYRCL Board President George Olive.
SYRCL grew significantly under Booth’s leadership, currently employing 35 staff and contributing millions annually to our local economy with landscape-level projects that increase the environmental resiliency of our community and watershed. Several significant accomplishments under Booth’s leadership include an added focus on forest health and wildfire prevention, building partnerships that have led to five active salmon habitat improvement projects in the lower Yuba resulting in the removal of nearly 100,000 cubic yards of material from the floodplain, and keeping a robust and strong organization thriving through COVID, retaining all employees working at full capacity. SYRCL even expanded over the last few years, adding additional capacity in the realms of policy and communications. SYRCL purchased its building in 2020, creating a stable home for operations and added solar power in 2022.
“Melinda has continued and strengthened SYRCL’s partnership with the Tahoe National Forest, first through including us in a meaningful way in the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and then through collaboratively developing the North Yuba Forest Partnership (NYFP), a nationally prominent effort recognized by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the Forest Service,” said Eli Ilano, Forest Supervisor for the Tahoe National Forest. “Melinda’s efforts also led to SYRCL receiving the Partner of the Year award from the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service. The communities and watersheds of the Tahoe National Forest have been forever changed for the better thanks to Melinda’s leadership and SYRCL’s action.”
In addition to partnering with the Tahoe National Forest on the NYFP, SYRCL has led several meadow restoration projects in the Tahoe National Forest including the almost 500-acre Van Norden meadow restoration project at the headwaters of the South Yuba River.
“Honestly, this is hard to hear,” said Willie Whittlesey, general manager of Yuba Water Agency. “Melinda is truly one of the most collaborative, compassionate people I’ve ever worked with. It’s Melinda’s leadership that pushed the relationship between SYRCL and Yuba Water and allowed for some incredible partnerships in critical areas, like salmon habitat enhancement, forest restoration in the Yuba River watershed and water education for the students of Yuba County. While our organizations won’t always agree on everything, it is her willingness to work together on the things we can agree on that has made our projects successful. I will really miss working with her and am grateful that we had the chance to do some truly groundbreaking things together. I look forward to the future of our relationship with SYRCL, which all started with Melinda.”
“Working with Melinda and SYRCL consistently reminds me that when local government, nonprofit organizations, and engaged citizens come together to achieve shared goals, amazing things can happen. Nevada County greatly appreciates SYRCL’s commitment to this community, this watershed, and in particular is proud to call them a partner, especially related to river health and safety, visitation, and recreation,” said Alison Lehman, Nevada County Chief Executive Officer. “Melinda brought great passion and dedication to all that she did. Her contributions will be long lasting in our community.”
“I’m grateful to this community, and SYRCL’s board and staff for their support of me the past decade in my roles here, and their support of SYRCL, which I know will continue. The Yuba River is truly the heart of this community, and this place will forever hold a piece of mine,” stated Booth.
SYRCL is in incredible hands through this transition with a strong leadership team and staff in place. Aaron Zettler-Mann, Watershed Science Director, will serve as interim Executive Director upon Melinda’s departure in February until the competitive search for a new leader is complete.
SYRCL will be conducting a search for a new Executive Director to start next year. The job announcement will be on this website later this month.
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