Wallowa Resources’ effort to take their message to the public –– or in this case the pub –– netted 45 participants at Range Rider in Enterprise April 25.
The first-ever Pub Talk was the brainchild of Wallowa Resources program director Jean Jancaitis. Discussion focused on fire, drought and public perceptions of the blues.
The nonprofit’s development director Larz Stewart facilitated the gathering, which included three professors with Communities and Forests of Oregon. The joint research project includes Oregon State University Extension, University of Louisville, University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy and Wallowa Resources.
The group conducted thousands of interviews and surveys in eastern Oregon to understand how resident perceptions of how their environment and communities are changing with respect to forest management and climate change.
The talk featured OSU professor Paul Oester of La Grande, who has served as the forestry extension agent in southwest and northeast Oregon for 38 years. Professor Mark Ducey of the University of New Hampshire specializes in forest biometrics and management and Professor Larry Hamilton is a sociologist who specializes in statistical methods.
Hamilton shared his observations of the effect of climate change on both New Hampshire and eastern Oregon forests. Through the use of graphs, he showed that New Hampshire winters are getting steadily warmer while northeast Oregon is experiencing longer, drier and hotter summers.
He said that a number of surveys of northeastern Oregonians indicated that most did not recognize the current warming trend or expect further warming in the future.
“We found that people’s perception of the local weather more or less reflect their social identity and beliefs about climate change rather than age, how long you’ve lived here or a forest owner or something like that,” he said.
Ducey followed with his observation that community concern about forest health and wildfire cuts across all social identities. He said that his surveys of regional forests showed a marked density in comparison to other forests and that the density was notable in government managed forests, particularly in dead standing trees.
He also said the data somewhat matched public perception about the forests. He suggested a management plan that includes both public and private forestland to mitigate fire risk.
Oester spoke very briefly on his work with private, nonindustrial forest land owners.
The three spent about 40 minutes answering audience questions about methods of forest management.
Stewart said he was encouraged by attendance and participation in the talk as well as the varied questions asked of the panel afterwards.
Wallowa Resources is planning another Pub Talk this fall and possibly one per month over the coming winter. Stewart said that Wallowa Resources is interested in getting public input for future talks and suggested that interested community members contact communications coordinator Jessica Tomasini by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“We’re happy for the turnout for the first pub talk,” Stewart said. “We don’t want these to be speaking engagements where you sit and listen while someone’s telling you what to do or think. It’s supposed to be more of a conversation. There’s a lot of local knowledge out there, and we want to hear about it.”