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Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition


Downtown Joseph, Oregon

Incoming Salmon Valley Stewardship executive director Toni Ruth and I traveled to Enterprise, Oregon, last week to spend time with a group of people who have had a profound influence on me. Longtime Wallowa Resources Executive Director Nils Christoffersen had offered up his hometown for the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition strategic planning retreat.

By retreat, I mean 13 of us stayed in a beautiful old (circa 1896) farm house with 3 creeky floors, 3 bathrooms, 1 deck, 2 porches, and the Eagle Cap Wilderness staring into our windows. Thirteen people sharing 3 bathrooms set the stage for cooperation.

The site of RVCC's strategic planning retreat.

The site of RVCC’s strategic planning retreat.

Many of us in RVCC live and work in the rural West, most of us interacting daily with the public lands in our backyards. Others in our coalition approach this work from cities like Portland and Santa Fe, or campuses in Eugene and Fort Collins. This combination of perspectives has proven to be a mighty one. RVCC has taught me the power of collective action, the neighborliness of sharing, and the value of persistence.

One of RVCC’s strategies that is so important to our work at Salmon Valley Stewardship is to insist that community benefit be a priority when public land management decisions are made. This strategy has the potential to save community schools, hospitals, and Main Streets, in addition to stewarding our forests and rangelands.

RVCC renewed our commitment to linking community benefit and stewardship of our land, air, and water. We agreed that this happens only when we knit our stories together, and we continue to connect and support the community-based organizations who are on the front lines.  By doing so, we leverage every place-based success so resource-strapped communities don’t have to re-invent the wheels of more productive relationships with public land managers, policies that serve the local workforce, and public-private partnerships that accelerate on-the-ground conservation.

Spending time in Wallowa County’s Enterprise and Joseph, it’s easy to understand why rural places are worth the extra imagination and effort. I am so incredibly grateful that my RVCC colleagues are willing to invest their time and considerable mind power devising strategies to strengthen the bond between people and place. As Toni takes the wheel of the SVS ship, I’m sure she will appreciate the able navigators of Rural Voices as much as I have.

RVCC 2016 Team Photo

Top Row: Nils Christoffersen (Wallowa Resources), Gary Burnett (Blackfoot Challenge), Heidi Huber-Stearns and Dr. Cassandra Moseley (Univ of Oregon Ecosystem Workforce Center); Middle Row: Jay McLaughlin (Mt. Adams Resource Stewards), Greg Block (Sustainable Northwest), Johnny Sundstrum (Siuslaw Institute); Bottom Row: Toni Ruth and Gina Knudson (Salmon Valley Stewardship), Bob Christensen (SE Alaska Partnership), Karen Hardigg (RVCC Coordinator), Nick Goulette (Watershed Research & Training Center), Dr. Zander Evans (Forest Stewards Guild)

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