The Columbia Land Trust’s go-to conservation champion shares her best practices
Name: Cherie Kearney
Hometown: Washougal, Washington
Affiliation: Columbia Land Trust
1. What first drew you to forestry work?
I live in a region where everyone is connected to and has an opinion about forests and forestry. Here, there are wide ranging views and values about our forests, how they should be managed and who and what should reap the benefits. What drew me to forestry work is the challenge and reward of negotiating toward commonly held values around this vital resource.
2. What is your favorite attribute of the community forest you’re affiliated with?
The fact that in a setting wracked with opinions, disagreement, economic stress, emotion and lawsuits over how forests are or should be treated there is prevailing agreement that a community forest is good idea.
3. From your perspective, what is the most important benefit that can be realized by developing community forests / practicing community forestry?
That a “community” of people will be so drawn by the values of the forest in their midst they will coalesce and work cooperatively to own and manage it. The process of developing a community forest reveals our shared and individual values – forestry operations, trails, water quality, sequestering carbon, children in the woods, view shed, stopping development, revenue, local control, wildlife – everyone sees something they love in the forest. Because of this, I find people engaged in developing a community forest become more tolerant and more likely to work together toward the goal.
4. What is the most challenging aspect of developing a community forest? Most gratifying?
The most challenging aspect is raising the funds in a timely way and successfully competing to buy a forest in an economy that values other uses, such as conversion, and more aggressive financial returns. The most gratifying aspect is community-based connection to a natural resource and to one another.
5. What advice would you give to communities interested in developing their own community forest?
Be open-minded to the partners, funding sources and funding criteria and the compromises you may need to make in order to succeed with your community forest. Communities start with a clear vision: we want to own and manage that forest. In order to raise the funds and achieve a cooperative management plan, compromises and unlikely partners may be worth the wonderful goal of owning and managing that forest.