January 31, 2012 - Bend Bulletin - Achterman's work focused on state's natural resources

Feb 02, 2012

January 31, 2012 - Bend Bulletin - Achterman's work focused on state's natural resources

Achterman's work focused on state's natural resources

By staff report / The Bulletin
Published: January 31. 2012 4:00AM PST

PORTLAND — Gail Achterman, a Portland lawyer whose career as a public servant — which included serving as the first executive director for the Deschutes River Conservancy — spanned nearly 40 years, has died at age 62.

Her husband, Charles McGinnis, said she died Saturday.

Achterman had recently retired as director of the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University and as chairwoman of the Oregon Transportation Commission. She served for 10 years on the commission.

She had worked as assistant for natural resources to Gov. Neil Goldschmidt from 1987 to 1991, and on numerous state councils and boards charged with developing policies on issues that included water, land use, energy, environmental quality, recreation and climate change.

She also had a role in drafting the legislation that created the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area in 1981.

“Gail was probably the best natural resources lawyer in the state,” Margaret Kirkpatrick, of Portland, a friend and former law partner, told The Oregonian. “What really drove Gail was her passion for the natural landscape and beauty of Oregon. Whether she was in it or doing her public policy work, it was all unified. She was an amazing person.”

Achterman died “quite peacefully,” her sister, Peg Achterman, wrote on the Caring Bridge website. The Oregonian reported she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Aug. 16.

“She has been surrounded by friends and family pretty constantly for the past week, so I know she felt loved and cared for in all ways,” the online post said.

Gov. John Kitzhaber said Achterman worked for Goldschmidt during a tumultuous time, when timber interests and environmentalists battled over protection of the spotted owl. Achterman retained high credibility with everyone involved, he said.

“She is just a really remarkable person in many, many ways in terms of service to the state,” Kitzhaber said.

As executive director of the Deschutes River Conservancy from 2000 to 2003, Achterman led the group's growth and spread its presence around the Deschutes River Basin, said Scott McCaulou, program director for the conservancy.

“A lot of the things she did laid the foundation for a lot of the success that the organization has had since then,” he said.

The conservancy is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1996 by the Environmental Defense Fund, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Central Oregon irrigation districts. It is involved with streamflow restoration projects.

A memorial service is planned for Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Portland.

She is survived by her husband; stepsons Daniel McGinnis and Ryan McGinnis; siblings Chris Achterman, Peg Achterman and Tom Achterman; and grandson Elliott McGinnis.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2011

Back to The River in the News »