I work for the North Coast State Forest Coalition, out of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club Office in Portland, Oregon
In 2011, the Oregon Department of Forestry revised the State Forest Management Plan to include an increase in clear-cut targets and less old growth conservation plans. Soon thereafter, the North Coast Coalition was formed. The Coalition is made up of five fish/forest-centric non-profits.
“The North Coast State Forest Coalition advocates for the balanced management of Oregon’s State Forests, especially the Tillamook and Clatsop Forests on Oregon’s North Coast. We envision forests that are managed to maximize all of their inherent values–economic, cultural, ecological, social, and recreational–in an effort to attain the Greatest Permanent Value for Oregonians. We are working to ensure long-term protection of areas important to clean water, fish and wildlife, and outdoor recreation.”
This is what is happening. I cannot believe that I did not know. For how many days and weekends I have spent in the Tillamook Forest- and for the length of time that I have studied Oregon’s natural resources, I cannot believe that I did not know.
I used to just roll my eyes at the clear-cuts, sad that private landowners were ruining our landscape. Little did I know that it was the State forest managers that were destroying the fish & wildlife habitat, the clean drinking water, and the availability of beautiful recreation areas for Oregonians. I am proud to be apart of the team that is helping to keep conservation in the forestry conversation.
Prior to accepting my position with the Sierra Club, I was faced with the dilemma to choose between working where I am now, at a non-profit, or for the City of Portland. Working for the city would have made for a much more complex bureaucratic experience-I know that I would have been easily frustrated by the roundabout logic, paperwork and false communications. (Note: my dream job is still to work for the city of Portland).
On the other hand, I have first hand experience to support my strong belief in the power of non-profits. They have the community support to be influential and successful in short-term productivity, as well as in long-term big picture planning. That being said, this is my first time working full-time for a non-profit with more than one or two employees. Working for the North Coast State Forest Coalition is an entirely different game. We are a group made up of five non-profits. Each of the five groups has a representative, usually a higher-up staff member, and generally, HE (it’s a man’s world over here, ladies) has a strong voice as to what should get done.
Luckily, I don’t mind being bossy-even when it comes to a round table of ‘aging old white men’ (their words). They admire my audacity to get projects accomplished and to keep the conversation and campaign strategy on track. (yet, I am still not getting paid…)
Fishing with the Governor
The third day of my internship I was lucky enough to join the team on a trip down south to Oregon’s state capitol. We were on our way to an important Board of Forestry meeting at the Department of Forestry Headquarters in Salem. The Board was about to affirm a new state forest land classification called “High Value Conservation Areas.” I joined the ranks at a very exciting time! This affirmation is the victory the Coalition has been working towards for the past two years-or since the 2011 formation of the Coalition.
Hopefully, new maps of the High Value Conservation Areas will be available early 2014. The areas affected by the new rule include aquatic, riparian and wildlife habitats, as well as lands with specific plant communities or those with unique aesthetic value.The Coalition has already prepared maps of where we believe the HVC Areas should be; however, as it goes with any government agency, the Board has yet to create the appropriate subcommittee of the committee…I have learned the only way to get anything done is through ‘close-ties’ with the State’s staffers.
I was told that one of our guys was meant to join the Governor for a weekend overnight fishing trip the following day. Now, Governor Kitzhaber wouldn’t want to make for an awkward fishing trip, so we were sure that the Board would vote in our favor. In addition, we had already had his word that he believed in a more balanced forest management, including providing healthy fish and wildlife habitat in our state forests. It was up to the State Forester to uphold the Governor’s platform for forest conservation.
As the Department of Forestry struggles under budget constraints, the new classification areas are at risk. This brings me as to why we generated such a large group to the meeting. The Board was also to discuss an impending problem that was still looming since “the recession”. The Department of Forestry is super broke. How do they generate quick revenue? Logging trees. And a stricter classification of protected areas is not in favor of timber harvest. Uh-oh.
The Board deliberated whether or not to set aside High Value Conservation Areas while exploring the opportunity for financial viability through new forest management plans. The idea to set the areas aside was discussed but ultimately dismissed. Instead, the Board has reopened these areas for timber harvest.
Yikes! So in the meantime, I am responsible for creating ‘one-pagers’ for the public and brief ‘white papers’ for elected officials, so that we can keep the conversation moving while we wait out the bureaucratic process… I am currently researching the scope of forest management on Federal Lands, State Lands, and Private Lands. I also just got set up in a fancy downtown office so I can develop some GIS materials for the campaign. (woot woot!)
I love working for the North Coast State Forest Coalition, and I am hopeful that we will see some great results in the next few months with the new Forest Management Plan. I encourage everyone to check out how their State Lands are being managed!