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Guest Opinions

Capitalizing on Change to Catalyze Success

Written by Bill Crapser

We are living in interesting and changing times. Our nation has just carried out one of its most profound responsibilities by electing individuals to serve in positions of local and national leadership. Wildfires are burning longer and bigger, and one of the most severe bark beetle infestations in living memory is taking place in Wyoming and beyond. And perhaps, reassuringly, as ever it does, winter is nearing and in some parts of the state, is already upon us. We are prepared, being hardy Wyomingites, accustomed to finding beauty and a myriad of ways to pass the time through our long and windy winters.

Change has not been a stranger to Wyoming State Forestry Division (WSFD), either. As have many state forestry agencies across the country, baby boomer retirements and increased mobility of the nation’s workforce have led to a plethora of new staff in WSFD. This has brought with it the opportunity to welcome fresh ideas and energy. In light of the challenges facing Wyoming’s forests, there could be no better time to capitalize on change – in our personnel and in the forces impacting the landscape – as a catalyst for achieving healthier, more resilient forests and landscapes in our state. 

As I look ahead at the best ways to approach change and make it work most effectively for WSFD and our work across the state, I find myself landing on three big ideas as the keys to success: Innovation, Integration and Diversification.

Innovation

There is an old saying that goes “100 years of tradition, unimpeded by progress.” I sometimes think this is an apt description of a sentiment held onto by many in the forestry and land management sector.

Yet if we are to accomplish our goals of achieving healthy and resilient forests and landscapes, we must innovate – in our ideas and thinking generally, as well as in our approaches to problems and problem solving. We need creative solutions if we are to solve old problems, problems that old solutions haven’t solved.

  We also need to consider stepping back and redefining some of the problems we face and then work to find relevant and forward thinking solutions.

Integration

Integration is a word many of us have heard frequently over the last 10 years. We have developed State Forest Action Plans, talked about the need for more “cross boundary” cooperation and discussed endlessly ways of better working together.

Nevertheless we still have work to do.

Programs remain relatively stove-piped within our agency, which impacts our ability to deliver diverse services to the public in a holistic way. I believe this presents us with an opportunity to look hard at ourself as an agency and at our relationships with partners and to seek out ways of better working across programs and organizations to achieve the cross boundary successes needed on the ground.

Diversification

I also believe we need to consider how to diversify our programs and projects, as well as our partners, people and ideas. We all serve an increasingly diverse public and workforce; not only do we need to accept this, but we should and can be leaders in embracing this diversity.

We need to grow our understanding about what makes forestry and management relevant to a diverse audience and strive to address those issues. We must look at ways to encourage and promote diversity in our workforce and sector and actively foster interest in natural resources from all groups.

Finally, we need to diversify our ideas and, in some cases, our preconceived notions. This means moving away from a “we have always done it this way” way of thinking and embracing a “yeah, let’s try that” mentality.

Bottom line, we need to strive to be ever more open to new and different ideas and thinking.

These ideas are a pretty tall order, and by no means do I think we will achieve complete success right away. I do believe that these ideas can guide us in the right direction and enable us to better carry out our important roles of protecting forests and landscapes from harm, conserving working forests and lands and enhancing the public benefits that derive from trees, forests and landscapes.