Do you remember your first day on the job? I know that I’ll never forget my first day at Sustainable Northwest. What seemed like only a few hours after I was shown my desk, I found myself sitting shotgun next to Patrick Shannon, my new boss, driving through the Cascades on our way to Bend. On November 4th and 5th, Sustainable Northwest hosted the first-ever Oregon Forest Collaboratives Workshop, where more than 60 people from 20 different forest collaborative groups came together for the first time to leverage their collective knowledge, share best practices, and to learn how to increase forest and watershed restoration across the state.
It is hard to imagine a better first day on the job. I mean, a road trip to Bend, are you serious? Not to mention that the workshop was a perfect introduction to my new role as Forest Program Associate. Forest Service leaders and staff, environmentalists, industry representatives, community organizers, and the other collaborators who drive restoration efforts on the ground were in attendance. This was an ideal place to introduce myself to those who I will be working closely with.
Forest collaborative groups are made up of traditionally disparate partners, who maintain different values for the landscape. Despite the diversity of perspectives within and among the forest collaboratives in attendance, I was struck by the considerable overlap in the challenges that the groups face. In every region of the state, forest collaboratives need support to foster agreement on how to manage national forests, training to develop organizational capacity to accomplish their goals, and approaches that will work to ensure progress in times of turnover among agency representatives and collaborative partners. Small-group discussions, including a couple I had the opportunity to facilitate, generated ideas about how these challenges might be overcome, which inspired more conversations and thoughtful dialogue when shared with the full group.
As a graduate student at Oregon State University, I studied how the Lakeview Stewardship Group, a forest collaborative in southern Oregon, responded to a large wildfire. That collaborative’s successful response is rooted the presence of social capital, or in other words, the strong relationships and trust between members of the group. At the workshop in Bend, it was clear that new relationships were being built, old friends were reuniting, and the development of some social capital over hors d’oeuvres and drinks was taking place! So here is to new adventures and an unforgettable first day on the job.
Author: Andrew Spaeth, Forest Program Director, Sustainable Northwest