Toad&Co Ambassador Spotlight: Dan Hulst, Ventura Land Trust, on Connecting People and Nature

Dan Hulst, Stewardship Director at Ventura Land Trust

Toad&Co: Thanks for chatting with us, Dan! You might be a familiar face to some from your expertise on the Toad&Co Fiber Show. While we miss you, we’re stoked that you’re still in the family as a Toad ambassador and protecting local lands now.

Let's start with Ventura Land Trust (VLT) and your role as their Stewardship Director. Tell us about VLT (a fellow 1% for the Planet member, we might add) and what your daily (or weekly) looks like. What’s the best part of your job?

Dan: VLT is a 501c3 nonprofit operating in Ventura County with the mission of protecting the land, water, wildlife, and scenic beauty of the Ventura region for current and future generations. We achieve this mission through the acquisition and stewardship of open space. As Stewardship Director, I manage our field teams and generally look after about 3,800 acres of open space.

I am lucky enough to have a role that allows me to get outside a fair bit and work with our field crew, but also build office based skills that can further the land trust's mission. The best part of my job is seeing smiling faces across our preserves, and knowing that our community is better connected to nature because of the work VLT is doing.

Toad: That's a lot of acreage! Why is land stewardship – particularly for public use – important?

Dan: Stewarding open space is important for a whole host of reasons, but it is particularly important to me because I see an opportunity to contribute to the mitigation of the climate crisis through conserving open space.

Equally important to me is providing the community with opportunities to get outside in ways that are thoughtful and considerate of both the plant and animal communities present, but also of other humans. We understand that by introducing humans to open space, we are inherently causing disturbance to the plants and animals that live there. We also understand that by preventing humans from accessing open space, we are further isolating our communities from nature, and demotivating our community to take a stand for protecting open space.

So this balance between conservation and recreation is tricky, and a part of my job that keeps me motivated to keep learning and improving.

Toad: It's totally a balancing act. That leads us to our next question: tell us about how you connect with nature outside of work. How do you balance conservation with your “for the fun of it” activities?

Dan: Yeah, spending time outside is really important for my mental health. I know this sounds lame, but I really like spending time in my yard, pulling weeds, trimming stuff, just generally vibing out. I also thoroughly enjoy riding waves! Something happens when I am in water and I can't help but froth out. Riding bikes is fun too!

Toad: Not lame at all! And speaking of riding waves... we hear you’re down for dawn patrol. Tell us about your most favorite place you’ve surfed?

Dan: I do love a good dawn patrol! I am a fan of the sand bottomed points in Oaxaca! Guess I probably shouldn't say names ;)

Toad: How do you personally find hope [positivity] for the planet when climate negativity so often clouds the headlines?

Dan: I have been really struggling with this lately. Sometimes my climate anxiety gets a little too heavy and I have to stop and try to reset. When I need that feeling, I think about the incredible ecosystems all over the planet that have evolved and adapted through millenia. I think the planet will endure the anthropocene and thrive again in the future, just maybe without us pesky humans.

Toad: What are some small behaviors people can change in order to drive impact together?

Dan: Shoot, I wish I had some easy answers here. First and foremost, vote! Eat more veggies and less meat. Try to reduce consumerism in general. And maybe most importantly, try and connect with people. If someone has a radically different viewpoint than you, try and understand why they think that way. The less divided we are, the more progress we will make. And if you can, spend more time in the tube!

Toad: We love the idea of connection and understanding. Relatedly, what does “doing good” mean to you?

Dan: For me, Doing Good means contributing every day to combating the climate crisis, being a good partner and friend, and being a positive force for my community.   

Toad: Speaking of combating the climate crisis, how can someone become more involved with land conservation?

Dan: Look up your local conservation organization and get involved! Become a member, volunteer, and donate if you can!

Toad: Lastly – complete this phrase for us: “Every day I aspire to…”

Dan: "...share the stoke!"

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