Contributed By Ruth Williamson, former Steering Committee Member, DCFP
I have had the good fortune to be involved with the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP) from the beginning. Five years ago, we came together, a gathering of familiar faces, opposing interests: Two from the timber sales industry, two representing environmental perspectives. Two with recreation connections, several from government agencies.
Most of us knew each other, but not well. Our impressions were drawn from years of opposing views on volatile issues concerning the best use of our public lands. We knew enough about each other to be suspicious of motives, a little defended, a little cautious.
Together, what coalesced into the DCFP is remarkable. Our contribution to work on the Deschutes National Forest is significant, and exceeds every national benchmark. Yet what we learned from each other feels even more important: When it comes to this landscape we love, we are far more connected than divided.
Foresters, bikers, timber sales representatives, birders, County and City officials—we share a reverence for the natural world and a call to the woods, in particular. We each acknowledge a landscape out of its delicate balance, in need of restoration. Sustainability, resiliency and resource efficiency are values held in the highest regard.
Together, we embraced challenging deliberations on implementation strategies with the end game as the beginning: We would disagree. Compromise, in fact, was considered a successful outcome.
Everyone listened. Hard. We asked questions. We suspended judgment (a dead-end when seeking to deeply understand each other). Together, we forged a sturdy framework. We moved through emotional moments without carrying a lot of baggage from one conversation to the next.
In the end, we crafted recommendations for the Deschutes National Forest that were not just implementable: They were defensible. There has been minimal opposition and appeal, and work is steadily unfolding.
THIS is success!
Delivering to the Deschutes National Forest recommendations that are practical and well supported saves time, financial resources and addresses the real urgency we share restoring these highly susceptible forests to fire-tolerant health.
The DCFP has been extraordinarily satisfying for me personally. Beyond our initial scope, we have developed a model for other government agencies committed to finding a ‘middle way’ around emotionally charged issues. The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project stands as a proud example of how we do things in Central Oregon. The friendships feel good, too!