Pinchot Partners looks to the future after the pandemic changed the style of the 19-year-old organization
By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]
The status of Pinchot Partners is similar to that of all businesses and organizations in Washington State right now: the search for normalcy after the pandemic has warranted major changes in operations.
The Pinchot Partners is a forestry collaboration, a group of different stakeholders in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
In 2002, shortly after the preservation of Northern Spotted Owl habitat extinguished the once thriving lumber industry in East Lewis County, as well as many other parts of Washington. The death of the industry was accompanied by a recession and a reduction in the quality of life for many residents. On the other hand, many conservationists saw the efforts as a victory. The owl became the subject of books and laws, bumper stickers and fights.
But the Northern Spotted Owl controversy gave way to something positive: a collaboration to represent people on all sides that persists to this day.
Now the Pinchot Partners mostly work on less controversial topics, but they’re still not shy about disagreeing. The Collaborative’s Board of Directors includes representatives from the Cowlitz and Yakima Tribes, the U.S. Forest Service, the Lewis County Recreation and Outdoor Tourism Commission, companies such as White Pass Highway Shopper and Hampton Lumber , research institutes and many other agencies and organizations.
“People just came together in the forest, in the Gifford Pinchot, and went through this process of envisioning what they wanted for East Lewis County, the forest and the communities that depend on it,” said Janene Ritchie, Executive Director of Pinchot Partners. “There were loggers, unionists, people from the Cowlitz Indian tribe, conservation organizations. So, as you can imagine, these people aren’t necessarily going to envision the same future, are they? And quite often, they will have competing priorities.
What came out of this process, Ritchie said, was the realization that these groups had more in common than not, and that while it would prove difficult even decades later, there was a way to work together and make consensual decisions about the forest. Pinchot Partners becomes an association the following year.
These days, Ritchie said, his plans and policies focus on three pillars: job creation, forest health and recreation.
Ritchie – who works remotely from Vancouver, where her husband has a job – started working full-time with the collaboration in March 2020, just before the world was about to enter a major pandemic shift. . Like any organization, the Pinchot Partners had to adapt. Their whole philosophy of in-person collaboration was under threat, but Zoom meetings should suffice. Likewise, their annual meeting — usually a two-day conference — has been held on Zoom for two years in a row.
But the partners are preparing to meet again in person. At the annual meeting earlier this month, the group discussed 2022 goals. First, the Pinchot Partners intend to return to the regular meeting format, or at least a hybrid meeting, towards the May.
The nonprofit will also bring back its annual “field trips,” which it postponed to 2020. The partners are aiming for three of them this year, with the first due to take place in June.
Other goals for the year include collecting and tracking blueberry data, hiring a communications coordinator, and creating a “zones of agreement” document to facilitate future debates, discussions and stakeholder decisions.
“Basically, we are simply distilling the position of the partners on each of these subjects. It’s really important to note that we don’t always agree. Areas of Agreement can help us shed light on where we agree and where we disagree,” Ritchie said, later adding, “We don’t shy away from different difficult and challenging perspectives. is why we exist. »
Learn more about Pinchot Partners at https://www.pinchotpartners.org/ or by following Facebook page @pinchotpartners.