Breaking Down the Borders - Columbia Land Trust
Our Forest Conservation Director Cherie Kearney shares how the Land Trust is working to include more culturally and racially diverse perspectives throughout the region.

For ten years we’ve held our vision for the south side of Mount St. Helens—20,000 acres of forest conservation. While at the outset we didn’t know what conservation of such a landscape would look like, what eventually emerged was community conservation.

Along the way, we heard wide-ranging opinions from the community, in­dicating that forestry is a vital cog in our Northwest economy, stands of old-growth are inimitable and necessary, and the volcano and Lewis River are beloved. At times sonorous and at times dissonant, these voices strengthened our conservation strategy.

The past decade of somewhat impromptu community conservation illustrates how we have done business: listening to people while relying on science and data. But the Land Trust is purposefully changing. Increasingly, our conversations throughout the region include more culturally and racially diverse perspectives.

We intentionally listen to under-sung voices, from people who may not have had the privilege of easily being heard. When we intone community we ask: Who is missing? Through this expanded lens, diverse stories emerge, and ultimately this inspires conservation that is boundless and boundary-less.

A primary tenet of our recent Conservation Agenda is to engage people. If people are connected to nature and if communities are generating ideas for conservation that are culturally-responsive, then the outcome will be enduring. Conservation boundaries go beyond a national forest, extend farther than the line of an American Indian reservation, are broader than a community forest, and reach across different—but connected—communities who feel they belong in these landscapes. This is happening in Klickitat River country.

In our story on the Klickitat Canyon Forest you’ll see that conservation is indeed about more; it entails stepping across borders of both landscape and culture. Without knowing the end of the story, I have confidence that the collaboration in Klickitat and throughout our Columbia River region will reflect the enduring wisdom that we can achieve more together.

Cherie Kearney
Forest Conservation Director