By – April Simpson, Legislative Representative
Conference Purpose: To meet leaders in the Natural Resources/Timber Industry, obtain the latest developments in Washington D.C. and in the Northwest as well as learn more about what other leaders are doing to support the sustainable harvest of timber, use of chemicals and other activities that ultimately affect our members and their families as well as impact our core educational program, Talk About Trees.
The AFRC Annual Meeting kicked off with a reception address on Tuesday evening from Oregon Rep. Greg Walden and was followed the next day by a keynote address from Rep. Bruce Westerman (R) Arkansas. Congressman Westerman worked as a professional engineer and forester before being elected to the House of Representative in 2014. Westerman serves on the Committee on the Budget, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Committee on Natural Resources, where he is Chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Westerman also serves on the Majority Whip Team under the leadership of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. He is a great supporter of the Timber industry and one to support and watch. I had the opportunity to speak with Congressman Westerman one-on-one briefly and asked him about whether there was a possibility that congress would consider aggressively increasing forest service sales to generate revenue for the purpose of providing funding for school building improvements to provide extra security for our nations school buildings in the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida. He told me it hadn’t been discussed and he considered it a good idea.
We also heard from Senator Steve Daines, State Representative Brian Blake, State Representative Jim Walsh, Rod Fleck, City of Forks, Russ Pfeiffer-Hoyt, WSSDA Trust Land Task Force and Hilary Franz, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands.
Nick Smith, Healthy Forests Healthy Communities, Chris French, US Forest Service, Cameron Krauss, Seneca Sawmill, Steve Swanson, Swanson Group, Bill Imbergamo, FFRC, Heath Heikkila, AFRC Director of Government Relations, Lawson Fite, AFRC General Council and Sara Ghafouri, AFRC Staff Attorney all hosted presentations updating attendees on what the Forest Industry has been successful in this last year, what is currently being fought and a crystal ball forecast of what is to come. I took notes on each presentation, a lot of great information was shared that is useful to support my purpose for Oregon Women in Timber.
**A highlight was a clip of a TED talk worth watching, Michael Green: Why we should build wooden skyscrapers.
Wednesday afternoon a breakout session by Region was hosted by leaders of the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM. I attended the Regions 1 & 4 breakout session. Highlights of that time were an emphasis by leaders of the Forest Service on what they’re calling the “Modernization of the Forest Service”, which essentially means the Forest Service is moving into the 21st century and employing policies and techniques that speed up their internal processes.
I also spoke several times separately with Peg Polichio, who is head of the Good Neighbor Authority for Idaho. She is working with Oregon’s representatives closely on using this to streamline processes and make sure more timber sales are seen through to harvest.
- Several people I talked with commented on the number of women present at the meeting in leadership positions. This was encouraging to all I talked to and the women were glad to have other women to talk with about these issues we are so passionate about.
- I met and talked with several people I wanted to meet and hadn’t yet had the opportunity to. Some I have been on conference calls with but hadn’t met face to face. I kept notes, so I wouldn’t forget names, and the total of new people I met was 34! I also talked with about 10 I had met previously.
- Bill Imbergamo remembered me from Anna and my D.C. visit and we talked briefly. It was nice to feel that I was building on what was started last summer for OWIT.
- I talked with several people, men and women, about Oregon Women in Timber and Talk About Trees. What we are doing continues to be a significant contribution to the families in our state and a force for good. I am in the process now of following up with the women I met about becoming members.
The AFRC annual meeting was an overall success and a good use of our resources. I learned more about how to maneuver legislatively in our state and in Washington D.C., met some valuable contacts, and overall came away with encouragement that Oregon Women in Timber is headed in a direction that will continue to have a great impact on our priorities; creating awareness of the importance of forests, trees and wood products.