The impetus for the Seventh American Forest Congress grew out of a meeting held in January 1995 at the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, Nebraska. During 1994, a small group of people circulated the idea that in spite of the wide range of beliefs regarding how to manage natural resources, individual citizens concerned with America's forests may agree on more aspects of America's forests than they realize. Eleven sponsoring organizations decided to test the idea by supporting the Nebraska Roundtable.
About 50 individuals from all regions of the country agreed to come to Nebraska. The participants included representatives from environmental groups, industry, universities and private and public land managers. Prior to attending, the organizers asked each invited guest to submit a vision statement for management of America's forests. At the roundtable, the attendees split equally into five table teams that were arranged to promote a maximum mix of different viewpoints. A trained facilitator guided each table team toward common points of agreement regarding the visions, principles and next steps that the individual participants believed were essential to manage America's forests.
Principles such as maintaining healthy forests to produce clean air and water, long-term sustainability of forests, and the need for abundant and diverse wildlife gained nearly unanimous approval. Ideas like third-party certification of sustainability and incentives for sound forest management likewise received broad support. Most important, the participants agreed that the status quo in the areas of forest policy, management, research, education and the limited level of citizen involvement was satisfying neither the national or local needs of the country. As a result, public confidence in the current system had faded.
Participants in the Nebraska Roundtable believed the search for reasonable solutions to the crisis had to begin immediately. Instead of turning to familiar channels like the courtroom, the participants resolved to build a grassroots discussion about our nation's forests. The discussion would focus on common strengths and values: ecological protection, human ecology, economics and sustainability.
Believing a citizens Forest Congress to be the appropriate forum for such discussion, the Nebraska Roundtable participants issued a call for the Seventh American Forest Congress. Several participants volunteered to be part of an initial Board of Directors for the Seventh American Forest Congress. The volunteers agreed many more voices were needed to assure the success of the Forest Congress.
A Forest Congress office to support and coordinate activities leading up to and through the Congress was established in New Haven, Connecticut. The office's first priority was to assist local groups wishing toorganize local roundtables and collaborative meetings aimed at facilitating the discussion at the grassroots. A total of 51 local roundtables and 43 collaborative meetings were held throughout the country prior to the Seventh American Forest Congress gathering in Washington, DC in February 1996.
Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program
University of Montana
Environmental and Natural Resources Policy Institute
Colorado State University
International Paper Company
Natural Resources Council of America
Pinchot Institute for Conservation
School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
The Society of American Foresters
The Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation
Water Resources Research Center
University of Arizona