At Isabel Vander Stoep / firstname.lastname@example.org
On Wednesday morning, an unexpected staff stood in a circle outside the Packwood Timberland Library.
One person wore a hoodie Cascade Forest Conservancy, a powerful environmental, anti-mining and often anti-logging organization based in Vancouver. Several US Forest Service sports uniforms. Others wear walnut shirts and romos, which are telltale signs of the recorder.
These are Pinchot Partners, and their interests are as diverse as their clothing.
A nearly 20-year-old organization representing the environmental, economic, and educational interests of the Cowlitz Valley region of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, it goes against the old idea that loggers and environmentalists are mutually exclusive.
The group was founded in the wake of the Northern Spotted Owl controversy and today works closely with the Forest Service to make recommendations on behalf of relevant stakeholders. Partners include representatives from the Cowlitz and Yakima tribes, the US Forest Service, the Lewis County Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Commission, companies including Hampton Lumber, research institutions and many other agencies and organizations.
With Janine Ritchie as CEO for two and a half years, the group’s priority now is a working document they call “Areas of Agreement” to guide future conversations by outlining shared values between partners. So field trips. Getting into the woods is the best way to understand what is worth agreeing to.
Along with other trips that involved data collection and monitoring, this trip was supposed to show partners what they mean when they talk about riparian areas, ancient growth stands, biodiversity and more.
Led by James Donaghy, Acting Cowlitz Valley District Ranger, the group moved into the woods from the library above Forest Service Road 47. The crew of 17 would spend the day, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., visiting six stations and hearing from experts including In it rangers and Ken Wyman, a fish biologist.
The first stop was to look at the riparian areas or the boundaries around waterways such as streams. Participants in the field discuss succession: When was this recorded? When did it burn? What did it look like before? What will it look like in 80 years?
In the past, a study submitted to the Forest Service by partners served as a guide to how to approach the riparian areas of Gifford Pinchot.
With job creation, recreation and forest health interests as the three primary tenants of the partners, the group is particularly involved when the Forest Department undertakes projects that require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessment, during which certification from the public is required.
“It’s basically an extension of us to interact with the public. So, we don’t have to take their recommendations, but we do our best to only work with them, just as we work with the public. In this case, I think you can see that they are more knowledgeable than most of the general public,” Donahe said. They have been involved in our planning processes. They have this history. They have all worked in different aspects of the offshore industry.”
Jon Squires, former President of Partners, points and chimes during presentations. Gray and awkward-bearded, Squires said his father was a forester, “and once he retired, he freaked out about them all the time.”
Despite his tenure with the organization and forests in general, when Donahi and others spoke of “basal area per acre,” essentially a measure of forest density, he leaned and whispered, “I still don’t understand half of that stuff.”
Field trips provide an opportunity to bridge the gap between experts at these data points and people who earn from the forest, whether through profit or entertainment. Most people who join the process understand the importance of both goals.
“The purpose of the field trip is really to educate us and our members about what is happening in the forest and even almost like a topic in general so that we can provide more and give more relevant feedback in future projects,” Ritchie said.
To find out more or share with Pinchot Partners, https://www.pinchotpartners.org/.
The organization’s board of directors meets from 9 to 11:30 a.m., the third Wednesday of every month in Toledo and on Zoom.