Pacific Wildlife has New Pack Leader

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 19, 2024

Kristin Howland is the new executive director for Pacific Wildlife Care. Photo submitted

A local non-profit dedicated to the care of sick and injured wildlife has a new leader of the pack, the group announced in early December.

Pacific Wildlife Care, an all-volunteer organization celebrating 40 years helping the wildlife of SLO County, announced a new executive director, replacing the former director who is now officially retired.

“The Board of Directors of Pacific Wildlife Care,” reads a news release from PWC, “is pleased to announce the selection of Kristin Howland as its new executive director.”

Howland comes over from the State Parks Foundation, where she was that non-profit’s executive director. She replaces former Morro Bay City Councilwoman, Christine Johnson, at PWC’s helm.

She brings a lot of experience to the job. “Howland’s background as an executive director,” PWC said, “combined with a deep passion for environmental education and living compatibly with wildlife will help further advance the mission of the organization that will celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2024.”

The chairwoman of the board welcomed the new executive.

“We are thrilled,” Marcelle Bakula, Chairwoman of PWC’s Board of Directors said, “to welcome Kristin as our new Executive Director. She will bring experience, enthusiasm, and a diverse set of skills to our organization. We feel fortunate to bring on an experienced non-profit leader with local roots in San Luis Obispo County.”

Howland started her new job on Jan. 2 and will have two main duties — running the day-to-day operations of the organization in both the field picking up animals, and at the PWC Rehab Facility located on the power plant property; with her other big chore doing fundraising to help the group move into a new facility.

That new facility is planned for a donated piece of land on Buckley Road near the SLO County Airport in rural San Luis Obispo. The property was donated to the group a few years ago and is planned to be a new, state-of-the-art facility more centrally located in the county. That should make it easier for volunteers to respond to calls from the public reporting animals that need help.

It will also allow them to move out of the current facility, which is frankly getting on in years. Also, its long-term lease for the property expired in 2021 but they have so far been able to stay while working on a new center. Plant owner, Vistra Energy, have not publicly said what will happen to PWC’s facility when they begin construction of a Battery Energy Storage System or BESS proposed for the other side of the 100-acre plant property. 

There was some concern that the Buckley Road site would be included in a contaminated area with an underground plume of trichloroethylene or TCE, an industrial solvent that causes health problems/ TCE in the groundwater was discovered in 2016 by the Dist. 3 Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is in the process of an enforcement action in the case.

According to the CDC, Trichloroethylene “is a colorless liquid with a chloroform-like odor. Trichloroethylene may cause irritation to the eyes and skin. Exposure to high concentrations can cause dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, unconsciousness, liver damage, and even death.”

However, RWQCB Project Manager Dean Thomas told Estero Bay News that PWC’s site is some three-fourths of a mile outside the identified TCE plume, which is no doubt very good news for the group.

Also, PWC in April 2021, asked the Board of Supervisors to waive some $207,000 in planning and building fees for its project, which Supervisors approved.

Howland, “will launch the public phase of an on-going capital campaign,” the group said. It’s a daunting task ahead for the tiny little nonprofit.

Howland brings 20-years of diverse experience in non-profit leadership and environmental conservation. She was a State Park Ranger for over 13 years in SLO County and she was also Director of Education at Catalina Island Conservancy. Most recently she was the Executive Director of the Central Coast State Parks Association, “showcase her expertise in managing natural spaces, developing educational programs, and leading nonprofit initiatives dedicated to conservation.”

The Foundation is a non-profit group that works with and supports the State Parks, including running the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay State Park. The Foundation also works down at Oceano Dunes SVH and Pismo State Park and its famous Monarch Butterfly Grove. She also has experience in National Parks and Forests, which PWC believes will be “a well-rounded perspective and valuable skills to contribute to Pacific Wildlife Care’s mission in wildlife rehabilitation and education.”

She’s very happy with her new job. “Protecting wildlife and crucial habitat,” Howland said in a statement, “has always been my passion, and I’m thrilled to join Pacific Wildlife Care as the new Executive Director. I look forward to combining my experience in conservation, education, and non-profit leadership to further the organization’s mission to give wildlife a second chance in San Luis Obispo County. Together, we’ll strive to make a lasting impact on the well-being of our natural world.”

Begun in 1984, PWC has for over 39 years been “supporting San Luis Obispo County wildlife through rehabilitation and educational outreach. PWC is SLO County’s only licensed rehabilitation center that cares for injured, ill, orphaned, and pollution-damaged birds, land/air mammals, and reptiles/amphibians.

The organization began with just a few local wildlife lovers who wanted to help sick, injured and orphaned wildlife throughout the county. It’s is the only organization licensed by State Fish & Wildlife to respond to oil spills and assist with saving mostly seabirds soiled by muck. See: pacificwildlifecare.org for more information about the group.

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