Welcome Meriel Darzen and thanks to Christine Rontal for outstanding service

1000 Friends of Oregon’s Board of Directors works with Oregonians across the state to create a compelling vision for our unique and special land use planning system. In June, we said a warm welcome to a new member and farewell to a longtime leader.

An Enthusiastic Welcome to Meriel Darzen!

A photo of Meriel Darzen in a grassy space with picnic tables

This month, the 1000 Friends’ Board of Directors named longtime member and former staff attorney Meriel Darzen to a four-year term. Meriel joined 1000 Friends in the circuit rider staff attorney position from 2016 until 2019, working with local affiliate organizations, farmers, ranchers, and foresters, and government representatives. Meriel continues to build relationships and knowledge of Oregon’s special and unique land use planning system now as a staff attorney at Crag Law Center.

Meriel is originally from the Boston area but has spent the last 15 years living and working in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated from the University of Washington with a law degree and an MS in forest resource. After law school, Meriel spent six years living in Bend where she practiced civil litigation and land use law. Meriel’s current docket at Crag primarily consists of litigating public lands and forest issues in federal court, and supporting local community groups on rural land use issues at the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). She is admitted to practice in Oregon and Washington.

Before becoming an attorney, Meriel graduated from Wesleyan University and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, where she helped construct a fruit tree nursery and learned how to graft mango trees. She speaks Spanish and lives in Portland with her family. She recently served on the board of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and in her free time she enjoys trail running, backcountry snowboarding, and vegetable gardening.

Please join us in welcoming Meriel to the board of directors! 


A Heartfelt Thank You to Christine Rontal! 

Christine Rontal

This month, our board of directors and staff also acknowledged the remarkable contributions by outgoing board member Christine Rontal. 

Christine joined the board in 2019, bringing more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector in different continents. As a rural community health worker in Africa, Christine was active in microfinance programs, the training of trainers, and national conference organization. In Alaska, Christine partnered with Alaska Native tribal councils to improve their planning processes so that they might advance the quality of life for their communities. In Peru, Christine directly served youth while assisting to streamline her host agency’s administrative processes. Christine served as consultant to charitable foundations in New York and as the executive director of Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation in Oregon, strengthening each nonprofit’s ability to ensure direct services were provided to the community. Christine also served on the City of Portland’s Human Rights Commission. 

Christine uses sociocracy (dynamic governance), movement building, real-time strategic planning, nonviolent communication, and DEI perspectives to inform her approach. She brought this approach to 1000 Friends, strengthening the organization’s ability to authentically analyze improvements to the land use system and to its internal operations. 

Christine played a pivotal role in updating 1000 Friends of Oregon’s strategic plan during multiple and concurrent emergencies: the COVID-19 pandemic, a historic wildfire season, sustained period of drought in far stretches of Oregon, and an uncertain economic outlook. In April 2021, thanks to Christine’s leadership, the board of directors adopted a strategic plan with five destination points that reflect a comprehensive approach to strengthening the land use planning system so that people and nature can thrive in Oregon for generations to come. 

Please join us in thanking Christine for her incredible service to 1000 Friends of Oregon! We are grateful for her steadfast dedication, strategic thinking, and collaborative approach to our strategic plan and annual plans, annual operating budget and endowments, and board recruitment and retention strategies.