Valley People: Clare Pregnant’s Conservation Adventure |

North Valley resident Clare Swager lived and worked in Taos, New Mexico before coming to the Wood River Valley where she pursued her interest in land conservation and now works with animals in need.

Swager grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where her father designed and built roads and bridges. Her mother started a newspaper to connect people with the history of the area, dating back to the early 17th century when German settlers came to the area.

“We lived in New York City when I was 6 to 9 years old, so at that point I was familiar with both country and city life,” she said. After attending boarding school at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, she attended Wellesley College for two years and then took a gap year to work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where she would spend the next few summers working on salt marsh ecology and aquaculture .

“At that point I thought I was going to be a marine biologist,” said Swanger. “I had written a thesis on whale acoustics in my senior year of high school and then went on a 30-day research cruise at sea.”

Swager earned a BA in economics from Yale and then went to Stanford for an MBA. There she pursued an interest in government policy.

“I thought I might join the EPA or something,” she said. Instead, she travelled, interested in mountain cultures and spirituality, eventually settling in Taos, New Mexico.

“I’ve always looked for win-win solutions between land, animals and the human community,” said Swanger. “I spent a lot of time in the library at university.”

In Taos, she stumbled upon a group that formed the Taos Land Trust, connected with a man named David Chavez, and served as the organization’s first executive director from 1992-2002.

“First I still had California license plates, so I had to park a half-mile down the street,” she said.

Along with dozens of projects, she led the preservation of the famous Taos Valley Overlook on the south end of town with $14.5 million from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“I loved living in New Mexico,” said Pregnant. “I was drawn to the landscape and struck by the deep connection and roots the people have there with the land, dating back to the 17th century with the Spanish and at least around 1100 AD with Taos Pueblo. I had never lived in a small tricultural community, so I learned a lot.”

In the 1990s, Swager worked as an author and project manager on The Promise of Diversity: Over 40 Voices Discuss Strategies for Eliminating Discrimination in Organizations, an experience who proved instrumental in the support she would provide for the Taos Pueblo site while working to protect and preserve a 20,000-acre ranch bordering the pueblo. Securing the ranch would prevent outsiders from observing the sacred ceremonies held by Native Americans at Blue Lake.

“We had a donor who gave $200,000 and had to raise more than $10 million,” said Swanger. “I didn’t know anything about the culture, but I soon learned about the minutes of meetings there and how to behave. You always talk to the most senior person in the room, which in this case was the War Chief.”

Pregnant said she learned at the Taos Pow Wow some time later that the Pueblo had succeeded in acquiring the ranch.

“I knew because I could see it in the light in the Warchief’s eyes,” she said.

“We also bought the Ponce De Leon hot springs for the Land Trust to develop. I feel good that we helped preserve what were considered the most important places for Native, Hispanic and Anglo-American cultures in the region.”

Swager served as the founding executive director of the New Mexico Land Conservancy until 2005 and moved to the Wood River Valley the following year. She was backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains in the 1980s and came to Sun Valley to join the adult figure skating school. She made friends and worked as a development director at The Community Library and became a recreational ice dancer.

From 2011 to 2019, Swager served as program coordinator for the Blaine County Land, Water and Conservation Program, the first taxpayer-funded county-level conservation program in Idaho.

“I’ve been in contact with people in county government and in land conservation organizations, and especially with landowners who wanted to preserve aspects of their property,” she said.

Recently Swager founded The Comfortable Canine, LLC. As a sole proprietor, she teaches dogs to live calmly and confidently in a human-centric world. She has also advised a variety of organizations on strategic management, professional development and animal welfare. She is an invited member of the Idaho Chapter of the International Women’s Forum and the Pet Professional Guild.

“My career has been focused on land conservation and animal welfare,” said Swanger. “Now I work to improve a dog’s behavior and well-being using forward-thinking, non-violent approaches. I specialize in often misunderstood juvenile dogs and dogs with shy, fearful or reactive behaviors.”

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