Our Story

Stillwater's founders wanted to create a company where scientific excellence and academic collaboration were incorporated into private-sector environmental consulting. They envisioned applying a holistic, watershed-based approach to solving ecosystem problems and moving past stakeholder impasses. Over 20 years ago, Frank Ligon, Christine Champe, and Bruce Orr started working from the dining room of a small condominium, a couple blocks north of the UC Berkeley campus. The three founders plus three additional staff took inspiration from the Grateful Dead in selecting a name for their venture, and soon became engaged on two large projects where strong scientific support, including collaborations with professors, set the stage to achieve consensus on land and water resource management. The team outgrew the living room quarters and moved into a proper office on Durant Street in 1997, where the daily kitchen smells of La Burrita and Top Dog would make their way upstairs, and a small flower shop graced the entrance. By 2000, they numbered around 30. Two of those staff were Stillwater's first two retirees, and 11 of those staff are still with Stillwater today.

The Arcata and Davis offices were opened soon thereafter. The company continues to grow alongside universities, with a larger Berkeley operation on Telegraph Avenue now, and in addition to Davis and Arcata, California offices established in Morro Bay and Los Angeles, and a northwest office in Portland, Oregon. The company maintains its vision of science-based problem-solving in its mix of river restoration, resource management, permitting, and construction projects involving all matter of creatures that swim, fly, or crawl, and all matter of human participants who communicate, collaborate, and in the end mostly cooperate to make the world a little blue-greener.

2018 marks a new chapter in Stillwater's history: Stillwater is now a broad-based employee-owned company having initiated an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in late 2017. This is an exciting transition for the company, allowing it to remain focused on the scientific support they provide clients and partners, maintain their culture, and ensure their longevity into the future. The founders and senior managers are actively mentoring bright and talented employees to take on key leadership roles within the company. Today, Stillwater is a 65-person company of engaged scientists, planners, and engineers finding solutions to complicated watershed management issues throughout the West, charting a path forward with commitment and collaboration.