A trip across Oregon

Posted by Renee Magyar on July 30, 2013

John Audley takes in the past and possibilities for the region.

John Audley with Martin Goebel and Nils Christoffersen, Executive Director of Wallawa Resources - SNW's first success story.

To join my first board meeting as Sustainable Northwest's new Executive Director, I drove from southwest of Grants Pass to Wallowa Lake. My family's annual week-long retreat to the Illinois River, about a half hour outside of Selma, landed during the same week as SNW's summer board gathering - this year held in the Wallowas, to help us celebrate Martin's 19-year tenure as the organization's leader. Grants Pass to Medford, then southeast to Klamath Falls. Up to Bend, over to Burns, then north into the state's northeast corner, the trip gave me a chance to visit with friends and colleagues along the way and hear them talk about our work.

As I drove along the eastern shore of Upper Klamath Lake, the seemingly endless supply of water shimmering in the heat reminded me that bridging community health and sustainable use of natural resources is rarely simple. It takes hard work, patience, and a willingness to listen respectfully to others. But from the Applegate to the Wallowas, these fundamental elements of collaboration have taken root, and people of good will are now using science and common sense to rebuild the social license required to use our natural resources responsibly. Real progress towards healthier forests and communities is visible in the Deschutes and Fremont-Winema National Forests - and in John Day when you drive past the still-operating Malheur Lumber Mill. Juniper landscape timbers create new hope for jobs and investment in Burns. Communities are now exploring alternative ways to generate heat and electricity using materials they once considered a nuisance - forest slash, or the near constant presence of the sun and wind. 

I could (and will) take this same trip through northern California, up through central and eastern Washington, or into Idaho, Nevada, or Montana - SNW's footprint - and find similar stories of challenge and hope. And as I pull into Enterprise, I am reminded why I am so excited to lead SNW to our next level of success. This is where the Sustainable Northwest story began, and the durable foundation of local partnerships and brave ingenuity holds the model for a strong future.