A path to community-based forestry

Posted by Renee Magyar on May 16, 2013

Marnie Criley, a longtime participant, reflects on RVCC's success over the years.

Marnie Criley with a cozy urban DC tree

By guest blogger Marnie Criley, Community Program Coordinator, Northwest Connections

I first came to RVCC's Western Week in Washington 10 years ago as a representative of an environmental organization. This was my first strong step into an interest in community-based solutions that started back in 1994. I was a naïve environmentalist just out of graduate school and working for Hells Canyon Preservation Council in Joseph, Oregon when some community members hung my boss, Ric Bailey, and another environmentalist, Andy Kerr in effigy. Tensions were high in Wallowa County, Oregon back then and many folks realized there had to be a better way. While we still have much work to do, we have come a long way.  

Capitol Hill may not be the most inspiring place at the moment, but RVCC continues to put forth positive solutions that address natural resource needs, rural community needs and cost efficiency issues. This is the reason I continue to be a part of this effort and am now working for a community-based organization that shares these values, Northwest Connections. 

Despite funding reductions for our policy work, and without our fearless leader, Maia Enzer, who has moved on to other important work, 22 of us made it to DC with four packed days of meetings with Congressional, Administrative and Agency staff. We represent rural forest and rangeland communities from CA, OR, ID, MT, AZ and NM. At the end of Day 2 we have collectively had 45 meetings covering issues ranging from appropriations requests to biomass issues to our approach to federal forest management and our vision for public rangelands. For me, it has been especially gratifying to see many of the public lands programs we supported and championed now in place - Stewardship Contracting, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program and the Integrated Resource Restoration line item just to name a few. 

Now we are here to ensure the continued funding of these and other important programs and to provide our on-the-ground experience as to what is working and how to fix what isn't working in our regions. We are a passionate group who care deeply about the natural and human communities that we call home and we have brought that passion to the policy leaders here in DC. Working together, we continue to be a strong voice for policy solutions to the ecological and economic challenges facing the rural West.