A shared vision for Washington forests

Posted by Andrew Spaeth on October 30, 2015

Sustainable Northwest is solidifying partnerships for the benefit of Washington’s national forests.

Photo by: Bureau of Land Management

It is a rare opportunity that all of the forest collaboratives in the state of Washington get a chance to be together in one place at the same time. On October 20-21, Sustainable Northwest gathered members of the eight Washington forest collaboratives in Ellensburg, WA for the Washington Forest Collaboratives Workshop. This was the second time in two years that the collaboratives had met, and the event brought together more than 40 community, non-profit, and agency leaders that are working on placed-based restoration of our national forests. Some participants are seasoned collaborators, having worked together on forest restoration for nearly two decades, while others, like the Darrington Forest Collaborative, are just getting started.

The purpose of the statewide meeting was to build a stronger understanding of each collaborative, share common challenges, provide space to network and learn from one another, and identify opportunities for future joint action. While each collaborative maintains a distinct set of core partners and works on slightly different issues, workshop participants shared their united vision: to improve ecological conditions in the forest, create jobs and economic opportunities for local communities, and bring together disparate parties interested in improving forest management. 

During the workshop, the enthusiasm among participants was palpable and it was clear that a rich exchange of ideas was underway. On a number of occasions, a participant would ask another, “Oh, that’s interesting. How did you do that?” Or, in response to something they just learned, “Wow! I wonder how the collaborative I work with could make that happen.” The words “innovative” and “creative” regularly entered into the dialogue. The fact of the matter, and what became apparent rather quickly at the workshop, is that Washington forest collaboratives are doing really exciting work, and there is room to build on that momentum. 

Collaborative learning and the exchange of ideas seemed to have left all of the participants with confident smiles on their faces and notebooks full of good ideas to bring back to each of the collaborative groups. And, together, workshop participants identified a number of common challenges and critical opportunities that could help focus their work together in the future: increasing state support for federal forest management, conducting multi-party monitoring of restoration projects, enhancing organizational capacity, finding the right mix of facilitation and administrative support services, and strengthening relationships among partners. While this is not an exhaustive list, the point remains; there is no shortage of work to be done. And Sustainable Northwest is excited to be involved in this work, as a partner with these collaborative groups who have invited us back to help with next steps.  

View the presentations on the workshop event page

Sustainable Northwest owes a special thanks to the planning committee for their hard work in organizing the workshop: Melody Kreimes, Mary Sutton Carruthers, Gloria Flora, Susan Thomas, Jamie Tolfree, and Lloyd McGee. Without the support of these key individuals and the funding provided by the U.S. Forest Service, this workshop would not have been possible.