5 Questions with Jay McLaughlin

Forest Stories, Profiles

Daring to imagine a new future for forests and people

Name: Jay McLaughlin
Hometown: Glenwood, Washington
Community forest affiliation: Mt. Adams Community Forest and Klickitat Canyon Community Forest Trust property

Rural Reinvention: Mt. Adams Resource Stewards, Glenwood, WA

1. What first drew you to forestry work?

I have always had a love for the outdoors and originally thought I would become a wildlife biologist. Somewhere along the way I took a silviculture course framed as applied ecology, and I was really intrigued by the challenge of using our understanding of ecological systems through forest management to achieve whatever outcome we desire.

2. What is your favorite attribute of the community forest you’re affiliated with?

Of the properties we own and manage, the Pine Flats Tract of the Mt. Adams Community Forest resembles a classic east slope Cascades, dry mixed conifer forest. I love the plant communities there. We’ve been using mechanical thinning and prescribed fire to shift this forest back toward a more open, park like stand as it would have been historically.

3. From your perspective, what is the most important benefit that can be realized by developing community forests / practicing community forestry?

Far and away the most important benefit of community based forestry for me is the connection of people with their surrounding forests. That connection generates a sense of ownership and has the potential to empower both individuals, and the communities they live in, to want to better steward these resources. For this reason, a true definition of community forests — owned by a locally based entity that facilitates that sense of ownership and connection — is essential as we grow the community forest effort in the Pacific Northwest.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of developing a community forest? Most gratifying?

Fundraising for acquisitions is a slog. Our biggest purchase to date was just over $800,000 dollars and it took us almost two years to raise those funds. Equally gratifying was the generosity and commitment shown by people in our community, as well as supporters near and far, toward the cause. Just walking the land when we finally knew we would make the finish line is an experience I’ll always remember — looking out at a forest and knowing that it would always be intact and managed for the long term. If things go as planned, the presence of that forest and the kind of management we move forward with will hopefully spark a new generation of foresters and other natural resource professionals.

5. What advice would you give to communities interested in developing their own community forest?
Dare to dream, and be ready for the long haul. Lean on others to learn what is possible and share others’ stories as a way to bring more people in your community together to be a part of the process.