Institute Founder and Executive Director ready for his next adventure

After 35 exciting and fulfilling years as part of this extraordinary community, I’m excited to announce that I plan to retire next year, on June 30, 2021. I believe this is the right time for me — and the right time for North Cascades Institute.

Finding the next leader for North Cascades Institute will be a significant milestone. In spite of the chaos that envelopes the world at the present moment, the Institute is healthy and resilient. Our vision, mission and programs will be needed more than ever in the years ahead. While we currently face a challenging confluence of events — the Covid-19 pandemic, a troubled economy, an urgent, widespread focus on racial justice, an incredibly significant national election, and worldwide climate disruption — we must embrace new opportunities as we look to the future.

Succession is about more than finding a new leader who fits the current demands of the job and needs of the Institute. This is a time to take advantage of our current strengths and resiliency to take us to the next level. My transition will allow us all to explore new ideas that will advance and leverage the mission of the Institute, broaden and diversify our audience, and help our board and staff lead the organization into the exciting times ahead.

While the challenges of Covid-19 will likely be with us for several years, I believe that we will be in a quieter phase of operational response by next spring-summer. And the chaos of the current political climate will hopefully be receding into the distance. Finally, we have strong partners, and close ties with organizations and agencies in our larger community — National Park Service, US Forest Service, Seattle City Light, Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission, school districts — as well as many individual participants, donors, businesses, nonprofit organizations and foundations committed to our success.

I considered the annual cycle and needs of the Institute as I discussed the timing of my retirement and shared my decision with our Board Chair, Sterling Clarren, this past June. I am gratified by the support our Board of Directors and Leadership Team have shown me, and how quickly the board has moved to form a search committee and hire Potrero Group to manage our search for a new Executive Director/CEO.

Potrero is familiar with the Institute and our programs and understands the landscape we work in. They have deep ties with conservation and education organizations throughout the country, including the National Park Service, NatureBridge, NOLS, Outdoor Afro and University of California. Our plan is to have a new Executive Director/CEO hired next spring with time for ample overlap before my departure.

My plans for the next 10 months are to:

  • Ensure the Institute moves forward with our vision, mission and strategic plan — including our ambitious goals for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion — while focusing on long-term sustainability.
  • Fully engage in our Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 fundraising campaigns to solidify Institute support with key stakeholders.
  • Continue to strengthen our relationships with Seattle City Light, tribes, state and federal agencies and our nonprofit partners in the FERC relicensing of the Skagit Hydroelectric Project.
  • Support our Board, Leadership Team and staff in whatever ways they need to manage the Institute and onboard a successful leader.

And after that? I intend to: stay open to change and look forward to new adventures and new learning; continue to work and serve, but on my own terms; and spend more time with family and friends to walk and paddle in wildness, watch birds and write in subalpine meadows. And of course, I plan to stay involved with North Cascades Institute and this special part of the world.

In short — more poetry, less administration.

Warmest regards,

Saul Weisberg
Executive Director

See job description here

We’d love to see your feedback, Saul stories and other appreciations in the comments below!


  1. Nancy Hart

    Saul, it is with mixed feelings that I read of your retirement. After moving to Bellingham in 1986, North Cascades Institute was instrumental in helping me feel at home in a new environment. Through the years, I had opportunities to learn about medicinal plants, island ethnobiology, the geology, botany, mushrooms, and butterflies of Mount Baker’s slopes, landscaping with native plants, and explored yoga, local foods and people at the Diablo Lake Center. What vision and leadership you have brought to guide this organization in its growth! So, I can imagine your joy in leaving a thriving, successful organization that has done so much to further love and appreciation of the Northwest environment, however, I will miss your insightful leadership in this time of great transition. Best wishes to you and Shelley in your retirement.

  2. Pat O’Rourke

    Congratulations and best wishes for your next journeys. I feel very fortunate to have known you during my years at IslandWood. Every time we connected, I felt inspired and energized — you have that effect on people! Thank you for your visionary leadership in the environmental fields. I look for to reading more of your poetry! Best, Pat

  3. Julie Pryor Barr

    More poetry, less administration. And a plan to immerse yourself in wildness. What perfect parting words for a man who has dedicated his life to educating people of all ages about our beautiful northwest environment, and the importance of conserving it. You have left an enduring legacy, Saul. We are all the luckier for it. Congratulations!

  4. Paul E Nelson

    I hope the “more poetry and less administration” is also your political slogan for a future gubernatorial campaign. Nice work Saul. You have good reason to be proud & git out when the goin’s good. I appreciate all your have done with NCI and will miss the Beats on the Peaks events. Mazel tov!


  5. Eric Burr

    Rebeca appears to be an ideal choice, and we look forward to our somewhat remote, but enthusiastic interaction with her and NCI. This winter Margrit and I finally enjoyed full retirement, and we recommend it highly. Thank you for your excellent work establishing and managing NCI, and indirectly NOCA!
    The book selections at NOCAs VCs are especially welcome, and hopefully will encourage better selections at other NPS/USFS VCs.

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