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Dean and his family, including Tilly the wonder dog (2019).

John and Dora Melugin with Dean. (ca. 1974).

Running Washout Rapids on the Lower Deschutes River (2009).

Dean checks a

frame of bees (2020).

In November 2020, Dean was elected to At Large Position 2 on the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District Board. In May 2022, Dean started a small consulting business called Gash Gold Vermilion Natural Resources Consulting, LLC. The company name is taken from the final line of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem The Windhover (1877).

Dean grew up in a suburb of Chicago. His father was a World War II veteran, an electrical engineer, and a lifelong bird watcher. He taught Dean to love nature. Dean’s mother was an amateur writer, lover of life, and Jimmy Buffett fan. She taught Dean to love projects.

As a sophomore biology major at Denver University, Dean became interested in the ecological aspects of agriculture. Professor Stella Coakley helped Dean transfer to the University of California at Davis and convinced her parents, John and Dora Melugin, to invite Dean to live and work on their 23-acre vegetable farm near Modesto, California. John taught Dean to love farming and to respect farmers. Click here to read Dean’s tribute to John upon his death in 2000 (and the story of the cucumbers, the crop duster, and the 12-gauge shotgun).

Dean worked on other farms, too, while earning a B.S. Degree in Plant Science at UC Davis and then a M.A. in Teaching at Cornell University. He milked cows near Willows California, drove tractor in Illinois, baled hay and operated a U-pick strawberry operation in upstate New York. His best farm job (and maybe his best job ever) was making maple syrup in upstate New York.


After teaching high school agriculture for three years, Dean began work for the USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service in Pendleton. Over the course of his 35-year career with USDA, Dean worked in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Oregon. His final 25-years was in Hillsboro, where he worked closely with the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District (TSWCD). While working full-time for USDA in Hillsboro, Dean earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Oregon Health & Science University.

Dean helped develop a unique program in which the TSWCD, USDA, and Clean Water Services work together to help farmers voluntarily plant native trees and shrubs along the Tualatin River and its tributaries. The trees provide shade, which cools water and thus improves fish habitat. The trees also filter runoff, making streams cleaner, and provide habitat for songbirds and pollinator insects. So far, farmers have planted over 50-miles of streambank in this partnership, which is unique in the nation. This program demonstrates the tremendous positive effect of agencies collaborating with farmers to improve resources for the entire community.

As a Master Conservation Planner, Dean trained several of the TSWCD staff in working with landowners, controlling erosion, managing nutrients, managing grazing livestock, and conducting natural resource inventories. After retiring from USDA in March 2020, Dean was elected to the TSWCD Board of Directors in November 2020 and then re-elected in November 2022.

Dean is married to Sara Pascoe, a Family Nurse Practitioner, now retired from OHSU. They have two daughters: Cailee is a product manager at Grove Collaborative in San Francisco, and Josie recently graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland. Dean and Sara live in the Cedar Mill area and keep a hive of honeybees at a small farm in Washington County. Dean and Cailee like to downhill ski and fly fish for trout. Dean and Josie like to scuba dive and birdwatch. The whole family enjoys rafting the Deschutes River.

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