Bonneville’s Matthew Schwartz has traveled the world supporting aqua farmers in Africa and protecting threatened and endangered species closer to home.

"Bonneville’s Matthew Schwartz has traveled the world supporting aqua farmers in Africa and protecting threatened and endangered species closer to home. Find out how he supports endangered salmon and steelhead as a part of BPA’s environmental mission."

Matthew Schwartz, Fish and wildlife administrator
How would you explain your job to your neighbor, so they not only understand what you do but what BPA does and its role in our region? 
I tell them that I work on salmon habitat restoration. I explain BPA primarily markets and delivers power to the Northwest and that the agency funds salmon and steelhead habitat restoration to mitigate for the construction and operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System. Part of that mitigation effort is to ensure salmon have suitable habitat to spawn and grow as they migrate to and from the ocean. 

How does your work support BPA’s mission and strategy? Be as specific as you can.
At a high level, my work supports BPA’s commitment to the Northwest Power Act,“to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the FCRPS.” My role also supports the Endangered Species Act and our government’s tribal trust and treaty provisions. 

How does your work help BPA keep rates low, stick to budget, reduce debt or generate revenue?  
To help BPA keep rates low and stick to budget, I work with restoration project partners to examine, evaluate and guide salmon habitat restoration work on the ground. This ensures project partners spend BPA funds in a manner that has the greatest impact on fish and wildlife, while staying on budget.  

A new or technical aspect of my job that I enjoy is: 
I enjoy managing the Columbia Basin Water Transaction Program. My previous work primarily focused on monitoring habitat restoration projects, which included monitoring water quality. However, until recently, I had never engaged in water transactions, which is purchasing water to remain instream for ESA-listed species. I find this new work exciting because it involves hydrology, policy, law and landowners. It’s also fulfilling to see water staying in streams for fish and to be supporting BPA-funded habitat restoration work. 

The coolest or most surprising thing about my job is:
The most surprising thing about my job is the geographic area it covers and the diversity of work. I have projects throughout the entire Columbia River Basin, and in a single day, I can go from discussing water transactions in Washington to working on habitat projects in Idaho to reviewing contracts for hatchery monitoring in Oregon. 

I like working at BPA because:
It gives me the opportunity to help salmon remain viable for future generations of Northwest residents. Salmon are a unique species that are iconic to the region, and working at BPA provides me the opportunity to improve habitat conditions for them.  

Safety is a core value at BPA. How do you incorporate safe behavior into your practices and environment?
As I work in both the office and the field, it is critical to remain aware of my environment. Office work requires recognizing my ergonomics and making sure there are no trip hazards. Fieldwork requires driving to restoration sites and walking around them. In the field environment, I practice defensive driving and ensure I have the right equipment to move through the field without injury. 

My most memorable story while working at BPA is:
Traveling around the Grande Ronde and John Day basins in Eastern Oregon with agency and tribal partners to look at BPA-funded restoration projects is a great memory. Many of these projects were implemented a couple of years ago and had time to fully recover to natural states. It was amazing to see how engineering, ecology and hydrology are used to restore salmon habitat. Also memorable was the pride in the accomplishments and the collaboration required to achieve success with those efforts. 

Tell us about your notable accomplishments, past jobs, awards, published work, etc.
I spent three-and-a-half years in Zambia with the Peace Corps, teaching rural farmers how to build ponds and raise fish for food and profit. After returning to the U.S., I’ve been fortunate to experience many landscapes and see endangered/threatened species in the Western U.S. In addition to working with salmon and steelhead on the southern Oregon coast, I’ve also monitored fishers – a member of the weasel family – in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, spotted owls in the Cascades and sage grouse in northern Nevada. All of these positions allowed me to see rare species and incredibly diverse and beautiful landscapes. 

My favorite thing about working and living in the Northwest is: 
The outdoors. I am fortunate to live in a place close to beautiful mountains and amazing forests. When mountain biking, I love to stop and soak in the beauty. It is even better when I find myself on a ridge under a blue sky with a spectacular view.
Two things I can’t live without are: Exercise and coffee

I am inspired by (people or places):
My co-workers inspire me. The commitment of everyone I work with at BPA to ensure we meet goals, accomplish BPA’s mission and execute plans at the highest level is impressive. My goal is to meet that level of commitment and contribute in ways that will inspire others.  

Where did you go to school? What did you study? What attracted you to that/those subject(s)? 
When I was young, I loved exploring the forest and lakes where I grew up in Ohio. My family also vacationed in South Carolina during the summer, and the ocean immediately enthralled me. These experiences led me to an undergraduate degree in marine biology at the College of Charleston. When I moved out West, I worked biology field jobs focused on salmon, which taught me the various ecological elements salmon need for survival. Pursuing a master’s degree in environmental science also gave me the education I need to help salmon population thrive.

Did you serve in the U.S Armed Forces? If so, what branch and what did you do?
I did not serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, but I appreciate the sacrifice of those who did, and I am honored to work alongside veterans every day.

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