2022 Women’s Forest Congress Experience and Camp Ripley Tour
Author and Photos by Candra Burns of Talking Forests
People who identify as women within the forest community have been creating an in-person congress for two years. We finally came together in a 4-day event in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our schedule had events towards a common goal of coming together and marching towards a better future of equity and inclusion. I was excited to be a workshop speaker. My presentation was "Empowering Communication Techniques to Reach Diverse Audiences." I discussed the value of representation and diversity when communicating forestry issues. The room was full of bright people who listened to the solutions I was providing. I wanted people to learn how to communicate their diverse perspectives through modern podcasting and social media techniques which our industry is finally catching on that this is needed. I learned as a consultant that some forest industry organizations do not have budgets for communications and marketing, please consider this in your own organization and take action to make it happen. Word of mouth, websites and snail mail are not the future, we should be creating these modern jobs and contract positions to provide another pathway for those who want to communicate about the forest community. These should be paid positions within their own organizations or open for contract opportunities, not just given to a staff member that knows how to use technology.
I was also lucky enough to tour Camp Ripley, where we learned about the unique conservation practices. Our lovely tour guides on the bus were Emilee Nelson from The Conservation Fund and Kayli Overland from The Nature Conservancy. This group was only ten people, so it was an excellent chance to listen and learn more about a smaller national guard's base role in our forest community. Most military installations across the USA have conserved some of our last remaining prairies and endangered species. These forests used to be owned by an industrial forest company. They are now protected and open to the public. Forestview Middle School uses parts of the forest as an outdoor classroom yearly. The Department of Defense partnered with state, local, and nonprofits to protect the lands and has funneled over $40 million to preserve the buffer area around Camp Ripley. Private landowners also protect their lands to protect the mission of Camp Ripley. The building we walked into on base was the "Martin J. Skoglund Environmental Classroom". Preserved animals surrounded me and the first thing I noticed was the hundreds of birds on the wall and I started to identify them. They also had mammals around the classroom that were well preserved. We sat down and heard Jake Kitzman, Camp Ripley Natural Resources Manager and Katie Retka, Minnesota Department of Military Affairs Senior Planner, talk about how the base is state owned on government property, but primarily operated for conservation. The 53,000 acres is divided into conservation easements and parcels used for various purposes by the base mission needs.
We then went out to the City of Baxter Mississippi Overlook and heard from Josh Doty, the Community Development Director of the City of Baxter and Kent Montgomery, Kimberly Scheffler, and Megan Tritz of Central Lakes College. We had lunch by the river and listened to the Baxter parks and trails plan. The vision is, "Mississippi River Overlook Park will provide high-quality, non-motorized recreational and educational amenities while preserving and restoring high biodiversity forests, wetlands and riparian areas." This area is considered a sentinel landscape. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Defense (DoD), and Department of the Interior (DOI) define sentinel landscapes as areas in which natural and working lands are well suited to protect defense facilities from land use that is incompatible with the military's mission. I want to recreate in this area, knowing it is now public and beautiful in the fall especially. A planned project in the area is the "Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail" which would go directly through the middle of the conserved property areas. We walked through some of the trails in the overlook area and the trees were colorful under the fall landscape. We were all happy to be out on this tour after three live days within our congress hotel location.
Read more on the Women's Forest Congress Event website: https://womensforestcongress.org/2022-congress/
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