Meet Our Board
Jeffrey Kee, Board Chair, is a fourth generation Oregonian dedicated to conservation. Being a descendant of Eastrern Oregon ranchers, loggers and teachers he brings a broad perspective of views to the OPLI Board. He is dedicated to building community capacity and has held leadership roles in numerous charitable and watershed restoration organizations.
Jeffrey’s family has two ranches in Grant County that are used for livestock grazing and recreation. He is currently managing both properties and implementing over 200 acres of restoration work.
Jeffrey’s grandfather took him steelhead fishing many times on the John Day River while he was growing up. These trips fueled the intense appreciation of an undammed river with a self sustaining population of steelhead and Chinook framed by impressive landscapes.
Jeffrey is a registered Professional Land Surveyor and Water Rights Examiner in Oregon. He was the last employee hired by the Oregon Water Trust which was a national leader in developing watershed health agreements that benefitted ranchers, farmers, the public and wildlife. He currently offers conservation planning services through Pacific Resource Management LLC.
Writing, art and photography are important parts of Jeffrey’s life. You can see some of his work at
Jeffrey is dedicated to working with a strong team to support the OPLI center in Fossil, encourage visitation to the John Day Basin and build local community capacity.
Lee Bouchard, is the past Chair of the Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery Board. His previous and current leadership has proved invaluable as the nonprofit has reorganized and reopened its gallery and bookstore. He is an active outdoorsman who enjoys hunting and fishing. Lee also finds time to volunteer in the Field Center bookstore, devoting many hours helping John Day River Basin visitors explore the possibilities of all there is to see and do in the area. He also provides instruction to visiting school groups regarding the fossils and landscape of the area.
Lee first floated the John Day River in 1958. With two friends they put their craft in the water at Mt. Vernon and floated all the way to the Columbia River before the John Day Dam was completed. He spent nearly 3 months on the river and explored old cabins and many canyons along the way. “It was on this river trip when I fell in love with Central and Eastern Oregon,” said Lee.
Lee joined the U.S. Army in 1961 as a Private. Later, he attended Officer Candidate School and made his career choice. After 33 years, Lee retired as a Lt. Colonel and bought a comfortable home in Fossil, OR. He enjoys gardening, fishing, hunting and travel.
"Family and close friends are important to me. My daughter, son-in-law and two grandhcildren live in Oregon City and my brother and his wife live just outside Portland. My high school graduation class of '61 remain very close and we stay in touch on our own website. I love being able to live here and have so many good friends in Wheeler County."
Bonnie Lofton is a retired public school instructor with a long standing interest in natural history. She resides in the south end of Wheeler County west of Mitchell Oregon and along the edge of the Ochoco National Forest.
She has served on several local non-profit boards since arriving in Eastern Oregon in 2000, as well as Chair of the Wheeler County Commission for Children and Families.
She was instrumental in gaining an additional loop to the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway designation in 2012 connecting the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds.
Bonnie and husband Steve built a log home off the grid and continue to be active in efforts to preserve and conserve natural resources.
Her many interests include on line networking, photography, hiking, preserving and maintaining Oregon’s Pioneer Cemeteries as well as writing news features for local news outlets. Currently, she is a Volunteer during the summer for the OPLI Field Center in Fossil and Secretary to the Board.
Richard Ross has explored Oregon's amazing and diverse landscapes for four decades, with family on both sides of the Cascades. Since 1995, Richard and his wife Barb have been part time residents of the John Day River Canyon near Service Creek. They manage a small ranch there for habitat conservation, range improvement, and riparian restoration along one mile of a seasonal creek.
Richard joined the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute Board in 2002 to help create the Oregon Paleo Lands Center in Fossil. He has helped lead other non-profit groups to create Tryon Creek State Park, to restore the Historic Columbia River Highway, and to save and replace endangered American Elms in Portland.
In the '70s, Richard taught Oregon history and environmental studies in Portland, using the Cascades and high desert as classrooms. For three decades since, he has been an urban and regional planner. He led Gresham’s transportation and community planning for 22 years, including plans for light rail station areas, urban renewal, and the Springwater Corridor trail. His related interests include Oregon’s natural and cultural history, especially Eastern Oregon.
Richard is committed to OPLI’s Mission, to see that the Oregon Paleo Lands Center is a strong regional hub for education and travel, which supports and connects the gateway communities of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
OPLI recently welcomed Dr. Yann Gavillot as the newest Board Member. Yann Gavillot is a geologist and on the research faculty at Oregon State University, specializing in earthquakes and tectonic processes of mountain belts. Yann also brings his expertise in science policy and geoheritage from his past work with Geoparks. Yann is currently affiliated with the IUCN Geoheritage Specialists Group, USGS Council of Geoparks, and with a broad Earth sciences community.
He has worked in Oregon, California, Arizona, and overseas (France, India, Middle East, and Southeast Asia). Yann and his family live in Corvallis, OR, which has been their home for nearly 10 years. Eastern Oregon has become one of their favorite places to escape the valley and enjoy the outdoors with amazing geology, unique landscapes, and rich history. Yann has a strong interest in working with a community that could improve its regional economic development with new ideas, projects and/or initiatives inspired by a “Geopark” concept applied to OPLI and the John Day River Basin area. It is for that reason Yann reached out to OPLI and believes the area has a great potential to become a regional success story incorporating the Geopark concept.
Emily Smitherman is the Office Coordinator at OPLI. Emily grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Eastern Oregon after visiting and falling in love with the area.
Emily has had a strong interest in geology for over a decade, obtaining an AA in Natural Science with an Emphasis in Physical Science with Honors in 2011.
In past years as a preschool teacher, she loved teaching children about science, often asking them why the moon happened to be out during the day or why there were puddles on the ground one day, and the puddles were gone the next. She values the importance of questions, and observation.