Magazine article American Forests

A Community of Hope

Magazine article American Forests

A Community of Hope

Article excerpt

As we approach the 21st century we are struggling with how best to integrate the many and diverse demands on our nation's forests. While the debate has traditionally been framed by a confrontational, us-versus-them mentality, around the country there has been another, quiet movement afoot.

Its proponents, weary of fighting and the accompanying losses experienced by communities, are bypassing finger-pointing and personal attacks in favor of civil dialogue and a collaborative process called community-based forestry. The emotions are just as intense, but by undertaking this arduous process communities show their desire to move beyond gridlock and take small steps toward building trust.

These are leaders for the new millennium, willing to ask hard questions, listen to difficult answers, define common ground, and learn together.

In this issue of American Forests we focus on community-based forestry. We look at some of the people and projects working toward a vision in which people and communities protect and sustain America's forests while the forests sustain community economic, social, and environmental well-being.

Community-based forestry has been studied internationally, but it is a recent import to the United States. In this country it draws the disparate elements of a community together to work collectively in resolving natural resource issues and to focus on the interdependence of forests and communities. This vision holds true in both urban and rural settings.

But community-based forestry is not without its challenges. Natural resource policies and decisionmaking at the national level have failed to include the perspectives and ideas of local communities, effectively barring them from the political process and frustrating their attempts at creative problem-solving. Some national interest groups are suspicious of the effort, fearing it will be used to exclude the national voice. An overarching question remains: How do we strengthen the role of local communities and also protect the rights of all Americans?

The purpose of this issue of American Forests is twofold. We hope to speak to a broader audience, reaching beyond mainstream conservation groups and engaging other sectors of society that do not ordinarily read environmental publications. For those already involved in the movement, we hope this issue will serve as a useful tool for conveying important-and often complex-ideas and concepts. …

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