Melinda Booth steps down as executive director of SYRCL

After nearly a dozen years with SYRCL and five years as head of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), Melinda Booth will step down as Executive Director after the Wild & Scenic Film Festival’s 21st anniversary in February 2023. (Submitted Photo)

Melinda Booth has held several leadership positions at SYRCL over the years. She was hired in 2011 as Director of Development and Wild and Scenic Events, leading all fundraising efforts at SYRCL, including the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. In 2015, she transitioned to director of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival as the organization grew and the job she was hired to do became two positions. In 2017, she was promoted to Executive Director where she remained.

“My time at SYRCL has been incredibly rewarding – this community is remarkable and I’m honored to have contributed to SYRCL’s growth and successes over the years. It was a tough decision, but ultimately made to support this which is best for my family, which gets us out of the area,” said Melinda Booth, General Manager. “I’m especially proud to make the Wild & Scenic Film Festival the robust event it is today – both locally and with our On Tour program – and to expand and create strong external partnerships to achieve conservation success at the pace and scale necessary 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 of the Yuba. The board is sad to see her go. Melinda’s tireless leadership has led important restoration initiatives throughout the watershed, and her clarity and passion have kept us all informed and engaged in policies and positions to benefit the river. SYRCL is a better organization for her having been its director,” said SYRCL Chairman of the Board, George Olive.

SYRCL has grown significantly under Booth’s leadership, currently employing 35 people and contributing millions to our local economy each year with landscape-level projects that increase the environmental resilience 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 meters of material from the floodplain and maintaining a robust and strong organization thriving through COVID, keeping all employees working at full capacity. SYRCL has even grown in recent years, adding additional capacity in the areas of policy and communications. SYRCL purchased its building in 2020 creating a stable home for operations and added solar power in 2022.

“Melinda continued and strengthened SYRCL’s partnership with the Tahoe National Forest, first by meaningfully including us in the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, then by collaboratively developing the North Yuba Forest Partnership (NYFP), an effort nationally recognized by the Secretary of Agriculture and Chief of the Forest Service,” said Eli Ilano, forestry supervisor for the Tahoe National Forest. “Melinda’s efforts also resulted in SYRCL receiving the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region Partner of the Year Award. The communities and watersheds of the Tahoe National Forest have changed forever for the better through Melinda’s leadership and the action of SYRCL.

In addition to partnering with Tahoe National Forest on the NYFP, SYRCL has spearheaded several grassland restoration projects in the Tahoe National Forest, including the nearly 500-acre Van Norden Grassland Restoration Project at Upper of the South Yuba River.

“Honestly, it’s hard to hear,” said Willie Whittlesey, chief executive of the Yuba Water Agency. “Melinda is truly one of the most collaborative and compassionate people I have ever worked with. It was Melinda’s leadership that pushed the relationship between SYRCL and Yuba Water and enabled incredible partnerships in areas critical, such as improving salmon habitat, restoring forests in the Yuba River watershed, and water education for students in Yuba County.Although our organizations are not always d agree on everything, it’s her willingness to work together on where we can agree that has made our projects successful. I will truly miss working with her and am grateful that we had the chance to do really groundbreaking things together. I look forward to the future of our relationship with SYRCL, which started with Melinda.

“Working with Melinda and SYRCL constantly reminds me that when local government, non-profit organizations, and engaged citizens come together to achieve common goals, amazing things can happen. Nevada County greatly appreciates the commitment of SYRCL to this community, this watershed, and in particular is proud to call them a partner, especially when it comes to river health and safety, visitation and recreation,” said Alison Lehman, Executive Director of the Nevada County.” Melinda brought a lot of passion and dedication to everything she did. His contributions will be lasting in our community.

“I am grateful to this community, and to the SYRCL Board and staff for their support over 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 part of me,” Booth said.

SYRCL is in good hands throughout this transition with a strong management team and staff in place. Watershed Scientific Director Aaron Zettler-Mann will serve as interim executive director following Melinda’s departure in February until the competitive search for a new leader is complete.

SYRCL will conduct a search for a new executive director to begin next year. The job announcement will be on its website later this month.


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