By April Simpson –
We were able on Monday to meet with Senator Merkley’s natural resources Legislative Aid B.J. Westlund and natural resources Legislative Assistant Ben Ward. We presented our position papers to them and talked with them about why we chose these positions; Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2017 – Tax Reform and Timberlands – Youth Careers in Logging. After this meeting we went to ‘The Capital Grille’ and had a drink with Doug Crandall, Director of Legislative Affairs, USDA Forest Service. We talked with him about our positions and he gave us his perspective about those issues as well as some news regarding changes in D.C. with the new administration.
Tuesday was a full day of D.C. hill visits. We met with Bill Imbergamo, Senior Policy Advisor OFW Law – Executive Director, Federal Forests Resource Coalition in the Watergate Complex.
He asked us to pressure Democrats to pass needed reform regarding the Cottonwood decision. We should also ask consistently for the administration to elect an undersecretary of agriculture.
We then went to meet with Congressman Walden in the Capital Building. His Natural resources Legislative Director, Riley Bushue, was once Walden’s staff member in La Grande and knew a former member of OWIT, Colleen MacLeod well. Walden was in full support of our positions and it was a very good meeting overall.
Peter DeFazio and his Natural Resources Legislative Director Kris “KP” Pratt was our next meeting. Although not an enthusiastic supporter of all our positions, he was a supporter of increased Timber harvest and didn’t think logger’s children working for the family business was a bad idea.
We took a get well card to Senator McCain’s office and left a position paper folder in Kurt Shrader’s office, Oregon Congressman 5th district. We also spoke briefly to Sarah Round, Natural Resources Legislative Assistant to Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon Congresswoman 1st district.
Erica Rhoad, Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Federal Lands, met with us in her office with her Senior Staff member Christopher Marklund. She was interviewed for the undersecretary of Agriculture position but after several months of back and forth deliberation from the administration she chose to take her name out of the running. Our meeting with her and her staff was informative, friendly a great meeting overall. Major take-aways for me were a better understanding of how government works regarding the elected officials and staff members of the departments and how agencies like the Forest Service, BLM, FEMA, etc. logistically impact a bill.
Tuesday was also check-in day for the NCFAE meeting. That evening was a social hour and we made it back from D.C. just in time to talk briefly with a few of the attendees before we made a meal of the appetizers and hit the hay!
Wednesday brought the first full day of meetings for the NCFAE. We attended breakfast with the group as well as the Forestry Industry Advisory Council (FIAC) meeting. We were not able to attend the tour of the Annapolis Naval Academy Walking Tour because our meeting with Senator Wyden was rescheduled for that time. We went into D.C. for the meeting with Senator Wyden but he was unable to attend at the last minute as he was running the Senate floor for issues regarding healthcare.
On a side note, because of the activity around healthcare and the position of Senator Wyden’s office we saw a live interview with the press in the halls of the Senate building!
We met with Malcolm McGeary, Natural Resources Legislative Assistant to Senator Wyden. He told us that Senator Wyden was not in support of the Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2017 because he has his own plan that he wanted to present. This plan would increase harvests on Federal Forest lands.
We traveled back to Annapolis and attended the rest of the meetings for that day. Using Land Conservation Initiatives to Create Value for Members was the Panel discussion. Presented by Pryor Gibson, Executive Vice President of the North Carolina Forestry Association, Tom Martin, President and CEO of American Forest Foundation (AFF) and Dave Tenny, President and CEO of National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO). Essentially this highlighted the merits of working with private timberland owners whose primary objective was ecosystem conservation. Many times, in order to maintain a thriving plant and animal ecosystem in the forest, part of the management plan needs to be timber harvest. Education of land owners on this concept encourages increased harvests.
We had dinner Wednesday evening with several members of the group at a restaurant on Chesapeake Bay. Picture included.
Thursday brought a full day of meetings in Annapolis. Starting with a discussion regarding Preparing for the Next Farm Bill – A view from the Hill. Speakers Josh Maxwell, Senior Professional Staff, House Agriculture Committee, Joe Schultz, Minority Staff Director, Senate Agriculture Committee and Sean Babbington, Senior Professional on Minority Staff and Forestry Expert. We were all able to ask this staff questions regarding what was already happening, what we should expect and in their opinion what we should be doing. Their advice was; If we want something included in the Farm Bill presentation and discussion work begins now.
Following a brief coffee break, Recruitment Retention and Management of the Merging Workforce was presented. Bob Corlett, CEO of Staffing Advisors spoke about how to attract quality employees, focusing on Millennials and how to manage and retain those employees. As he was talking I listened with an ear for OWIT membership. I asked myself; How do we grow our membership? How do we retain members?
Thoughts on these two questions:
What are we doing to create value for OWIT members?
How are we helping our members in their professional life?
How are we creating value for our members in their personal life?
Do we need to diversify our focus to attract energetic, passionate members?
How are we marketing our Association?
Is our marketing reaching our target member?
What is the definition of our target member?
How are we being effective?
Where are we ineffective?
How do we innovate to remain relevant and effective?
One of the major points he reiterated many times was; A person will stay with an organization if they feel the organization is creating value for them. If it is enriching their lives and is making them more marketable they remain content. Once that person believes they are not part of an organization that is making them more of an asset in the job marketplace they will leave. There were many other good points. Feel free to call if you have questions about the presentations.
A round robin discussion regarding Strengthening Membership Engagement and Operation Efficiencies involved everyone present. We all talked about what we do in our local states and communities to enrich and encourage forest management and awareness around its value.
Anna and I spoke about Talk About Trees, our Auction, our local firewood raffle in La Grande, the Ag-Timber parade, radio ads in October, social media presence, Vanessa’s work with the Summer Ag Institute.
Some good ideas from other associations;
Taking the local Congress and Senate staff person out for lunch, to the woods to see work being done, fun informative ‘outings’ to help develop their knowledge of real world issues. These people are often young, just out of college and not informed. It’s our job to be their go to person on these issues.
Having an interactive and ‘well connected’ web-page. Brimming with links to resources for people to explore.
Creating a Forestry, Trucking, Equipment operation internship program starting in High School. Working with local community colleges to provide accreditation. Helps students with finding work and employers with finding a skilled workforce.
The next presentation was National Association of University Forest Resource Programs (NAUFRP). Oregon State University is the largest recipient of this award Nationwide. It is important that we watch funding on this in the new farm bill.
The NCFAE (National Council of Forest Association Executives) annual meeting took place next. A couple of retirement awards were presented. The business of running the NCFAE was discussed. Including budget, objectives going forward and administration.
The whole group went to dinner hosted by NCFAE at a Crab specialty restaurant named Cantlers. A fun time where we got to visit more with everyone.
This was a very informative trip that reiterated the importance of Oregon Women in Timber as a force for good both on the ground with our Talk About Trees program and on the legislative front with our grassroots call to action work as well as our general support of all of the activities from other associations who are putting so much work and effort into keeping our state healthy.
Thank you to Oregon Women in Timber for allowing Anna and I to represent our group at the NCFAE meeting and in Washington D.C.. It is an honor.