The Ecological Society of America donated over $22,000 to local non-profit Sustainable Northwest’s Forest Program, to offset the environmental costs of travel to the society’s Annual Meeting, held this year in Portland, Oregon, on August 6th through 11th, 2017. More than 4,500 environmental researchers, students, educators, managers, practitioners, and policy makers traveled from across the United States and the globe last August to discuss the latest in ecological knowledge. The energy required to transport, house, and host these environmentally-minded participants exacts a toll on the very ecosystems that conference participants have come together to celebrate.
To offset environmental costs associated with the Annual Meetings, the society contributes $5 for every meeting registrant to a local organization in the city in which the conference meets. Portland-based Sustainable Northwest has taken on a challenging role of bringing together disparate interests to form solutions to natural resource issues at the nexus of the environment, the economy, and the community.
“Sustainable Northwest strives to work across the aisle with folks who might have been in opposing conservation corners in the past, to create successful collaborative and community-oriented restoration projects on forested lands,” said Marion Dresner, a professor at Portland State University. As the local host chair for the 2017 meeting, Dresner nominated the organization to receive the offsets fund.
Over the last twenty years, Sustainable Northwest has pioneered solutions to some of the most vexing natural resources management challenges in the American West. The organization was instrumental in negotiating the Klamath River Agreements, the largest headwaters-to-sea restoration project in the nation. It is responsible for establishing the Western Juniper Alliance, which brought together ranchers, conservationists, and public land managers to restore rangeland for sage grouse, by creating markets for western juniper wood, a restoration by-product.
This year’s offset donation was awarded directly to the Forest Program to support the Arch Cape and Rockaway Beach Pilot Projects, both community-driven efforts to acquire and manage the local drinking water source for the coastal towns.
“Drinking water source areas on Oregon’s coast are primarily managed for timber values, resulting in communities that face significant challenges securing safe, clean drinking water,” said Forest Program Director Andrew Spaeth. In the town of Arch Cape, there are 150 permanent and 900 seasonal residents whom rely on a water source that under industrial ownership, has been clear cut and sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. Rockaway Beach, a small town of 1500 just south of Arch Cape on the Oregon coast, has experienced similar issues.
“These communities approached Sustainable Northwest asking for help,” Spaeth said. “With the support of the ESA, we will develop a locally-supported governance framework that ensures community engagement in management decisions and develop a forest and conservation management plan that will improve species diversity and stocking levels over time. Creating community-owned forests ensures permanent protection of conservation values and management activities that will directly serve the local people.”
Sustainable Northwest has recently executed a Memorandum of Understanding to support the acquisition and management of an approximately 1250-acre drinking water source area for Arch Cape. Spaeth explained that securing tenure of forestlands increases the amount of carbon sequestered through improved forest management practices, amid a host of other benefits. “Local ownership of the forested drinking water source areas will improve the quality of water supplied by the forest, enhance wildlife habitat connectivity to adjacent public lands, create locally-based restoration jobs, and increase watershed resilience in the face of a changing climate.”
“It’s a unique project that brings together critical issues — public health, rural economic development, and climate change — and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of ESA!”