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Tanner Etherton

Economic Specialist Economic Development Division, County of Humboldt

Growing up, my dad was a park ranger at Tehachapi Mountain Park. He had this big topographical map of the park hanging in his office, and I can remember studying it, connecting the winding trails and campground with the landscape I saw as my playground.

That love for exploring the outdoors and caring for the environment eventually led me to HSU to get my degree. I was really fascinated by environmental economics—the idea that economists have ways of putting a dollar value on things that are truly invaluable. Communicating the true value that our landscape and environment have, in ways that allow legislation and regulations to protect the land. Quantifying that into a dollar amount really puts things into perspective. And then, there’s nothing that tells the story of that data better than a map. I mean, it's just something that everybody can understand. It's just an intuitive and artful representation of the facts. So the conjunction of the two, I found pretty, fascinating.

My work as an analyst at the County gives me the opportunity to bridge the gap between people, like myself, who care about the environment and the world around them, and the tangible economic benefits and projects that get the message across about how valuable these resources really are. For example, our office is helping with a project called CalForest WRX, which is looking at small diameter timber and biological waste in the forest and trying to give it a value so that we subsidize and encourage companies to remove biomass in and help with fire mitigation, while also providing sustainable packaging and manufacturing.

When I take a second to think about it, it’s pretty cool to see the ways my childhood impacted my career today. Watching my dad work in public service as a park ranger opened my eyes to how I could have a career that helped people and the environment. And my fascination with that map of the Tehachapi Mountains may have sparked my interest in GIS and data mapping.

Tanner Etherton
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