Many Voices . . . A Common Vision

Volume 1, Number 1
August 1995


A Citizens' Congress

Six times since 1882, representatives from public and private interests have convened American Forest Congresses to provide a forum for rethinking the role of forests in the life of the nation. From the First Congress, which laid the foundation for the conservation movement in this country, to the Sixth, which looked at the need for long-range planning as the basis for forest management, these events have helped redefine forest policies.

An Historic Opportunity?

As we near the end of the 20th Century, forest policy in America is again at a major juncture. As more people rely on forests for a variety of uses, and as science learns more about the benefits of forest ecosystems and how they work, we must re-examine our policies and management practices. This comes at a time when people are rethinking the role of government in our everyday lives. Bringing together these factors in a creative search for common ground and workable strategies offers a unique opportunity to shape American attitudes, policies, and practices for the next millennium.

You are invited to be a part of this historic process by participating in the Seventh American Forest Congress next February in Washington, DC.

Vision, Principles, and Next Steps

Planning is well underway to accommodate 2,000 citizens at the Congress, far more than any of the previous six--people whose interests run the spectrum from inner city to deep wilderness, from woodland owners and workers to restoration ecologists, from industry executives to environmental activists. These citizens will try their best to step beyond the conflicts and issues of the day to develop a common vision, principles, and next steps to help guide policies for forests and their stewardship in the next century.

The Questions, Please

Rather than presentations from experts about the state of America's forests, Congress attendees will be briefed on the deliberations and outcomes of pre-congress Roundtables and collaborative meetings which address the same questions they will: What is your vision for America's forests in a generation or two? What principles should guide us in achieving the forests you envision? What concrete first steps could individuals and organizations take to move us toward your vision?

Organize A Roundtable

Similar in approach to the Congress, day-long Roundtable discussions are organized by steering committees representing the full spectrum of forest interests in an area. At these Roundtables, citizens with different perspectives will define their common ground and lay the groundwork for actions they can all support. Just how broad is this spectrum? Attempts are made to include representatives from at least: environmental groups, the timber industry and small private landowners, government, universities, the recreation industry, and urban and community forestry. Gender and racial diversity are also important for success.

In addition to five pilot Roundtables, interest has come from potential Roundtable organizers in 23 locations in 18 states plus the District of Columbia. If you, or someone you know, is interested in attending a Roundtable, or in organizing one in your area, call the Congress office at 203/432-5117.

Pilot Roundtables

To help develop and test models for Roundtable meetings, a series of pilot Roundtables have been held. The first was in St. Paul, MN, on June 29. Two were held in July, one in Connecticut and the other in Oregon. The final pilots are scheduled for early August, in Arkansas and Vermont. Sixty people attended in Minnesota -- 18 from the environmental community, 17 from industry, 1 logger, plus 9 from state and federal agencies, 4 from county agencies, and several academics. The Roundtable was organized with the help of the Minnesota Environmental Initiative. The nine-member steering committee was chaired by Jerry Rose, MN DNR, and Jan Green, MN Environmental Action Initiative, Duluth. Both are members of the Congress Board of Directors.

Collaborative Meetings

Groups interested in considering these same issues of vision, principles, and next steps are encouraged to do so. We suggest planning these in conjunction with already scheduled conferences or meetings. Call the Congress office for information on how to report your discussions.

Getting Started

A number of materials are being readied to help those interested in becoming involved. They include a manual for organizing Roundtables, helpful tips for collaborative meetings and for reporting findings to the Forest Congress, and a 19-minute video about the history of the Congress and pre-congress activities A video version of the Roundtable facilitators' training session on July 30-31 is also nearing completion.

Video Sets the Stage

Background on the Seventh American Forest Congress is now available in a 19-minute video format from the Congress office. Developed for use to open Roundtable and Collaborative meetings, the video is available for use by Board members and meeting organizers to reach out to new audiences, funders, and others.

Communication

A new fact sheet describing the Congress' process of fostering discussion and identifying a common ground is available. Since confidence in the process is so critical to the Congress' success, people need to understand and be comfortable with it. Other fact sheets, talking points, a history of the Forest Congresses, and a call to action are also available free of charge. These materials and more can also be found on the Congress' page on the World Wide Web.

Media

A growing network of regional "communications champions" is helping identify organizational and media contacts. Are you talking to the media about the Congress? Help us build our contacts list and keep it current; use our media contact form. Copies available from the Congress Office, or from Dan Smith at 202/667-3300 ext. 208.

Fundraising

Several proposals continue to be circulated in support of the Congress and the many activities associated with it. The fundraising goal, including fees from Congress registrations, is $1.9 million. By late July we have $180,000 in hand and pledges for another $687,000 for a total of $867,000 in gifts and pledges from nonprofit foundations, industry, state and federal agencies, individuals, and associations. For the credibility and effectiveness of the Congress, we are continuing to seek support from all interested constituencies.

Scholarship Fund

Donations for support of the Congress from individuals will support the attendance of high-school and college students at the Congress. The William Shands Leadership Fund has been established for this purpose in memory of the late Bill Shands, one of the developers of the Community of Interest style of leadership.

Registration

Registration forms and materials will be available in mid-September. Because of the need to achieve broad representation and diversity at the Congress and within Table Teams, please provide a paragraph on yourself and your interests in forests on the registration form.


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