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Cindy Mitchell, WFPA, cmitchell@wfpa.org (Presenter)

 

"If there was an industry that is out of step with public thinking and has lost public confidence, it is the timber industry." This was the conclusion of a report assessing the industry's future in Washington State in 1990. Recognizing that no industry can operate long w/o public support, Washington's private land owners embarked on what is now a 20 year effort to regain public trust and to proactively influence forest policies, which effects on the ground practices. In 1990 the crystallizing question depicting public sentiment was: "Is any form of forestry compatible with the public's environmental values?" Today moderate conservation groups, opinion leaders and elected officials publicly recognize the value of working forests and are actively seeking to develop economic incentives to maintain private forests on the landscape. This "turn around" has been influenced by many factors, including landowners changed practices, changes in forest policy, institution of a 50-year state-wide Habitat Conservation Plan, and a consistent, research-based communications effort to inform the public about these changes. The results are demonstrated through scientific public opinion polling and policy changes that have been implemented in the last decade. The presentation seeks to demonstrate the importance of listening to and aligning with the public's values regarding forest practices. Finally it is imperative to communicate with the right target audiences about forest practices and policies to maintain the public support, often called "social-license" to operate.