Page 11 - Georgia Forestry - Issue 4 - Fall 2020
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 those communities, who own that land, EH: There’s one camp that’s saying aspects of the carbon or climate change
to have the ability to stay on that land economically. We’ve been seeing it recently with agriculture; we’re seeing it over the decades and with forest land- owners. So being able to keep forests in forests is more than a slogan to me — it’s really a critical part of the American landscape.
Rural communities are also part of the American landscape. And to be able to have rural communities, you need to have a solid economic base, and to be able to have that, you have to be able to have markets that support it. If we can farm carbon and grow carbon and make that into a marketplace, that just adds more value.
RB: If you think about the climate challenge we face, the science tells us we need to make significant greenhouse gas reductions in the next 30 years. You can’t get there without forests. And if you look at the role forests are playing in the U.S. right now, it’s an enormous carbon sink. And it’s largely
for free right now.
And if you think about the threats that
face forests, one big threat is fire, bugs, and disturbance. And then a second one is the importance of keeping forests as forests. To do those things, we’re going to need to think about incentives and policy — and markets are going to be critically important.
If you think back to some of the fights we’ve had about forests in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that was pitting management against the environment. What you rec- ognize in the climate issue is that we’re going to need to manage our forests. And so management becomes really important, private lands become really
important, markets become really important. And that alignment allows for constituencies that maybe weren’t thinking this way 20 years ago to come together in some really
interesting ways.
hey, we’ve just got to keep trees on the ground, that’s how we solve this. And then you have another camp that’s saying this climate change deal is just another opportunity for the government to kind of get in our busi- ness and overregulate. How do you navigate those issues?
DT:When you’re in the middle of a firefight, there’s an incredibly powerful temptation to just keep your head down. We’ve got to recognize that there is risk in engaging on this issue, for the reasons that you’ve mentioned. But there’s far greater risk in doing nothing. And so there are three things we ought to
keep in mind in all of this.
The first is that the climate change
issue isn’t going away. We’re now seeing that both parties are talking about it and talking about the need to address it. We’re seeing that in this conference. That should be a pretty strong signal about which way the prevailing winds are blowing on this issue.
The second thing is that if we don’t chart our own course in this sector, then someone else will do it for us. That’s just an immutable fact. We can either choose to act or we can choose to be acted upon.
The third thing that is important for us to consider is that we have this vital contribution to make and we have influential partners like EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) or Resources for the Future or the Nature Conservancy, who are political leaders in both parties, who really want to help us make that contribution. And we shouldn’t overlook that.
So with those ideas in mind, if we really want to succeed, here are a few thoughts to think about. First is the consistent and proactive driving of the narrative. That markets and trees and products provide mitigation and scale. That message over and over and over again, told in such a compelling way that others want to adopt it as part of their own narrative, is going to be critical to making this relevant to the solution.
The second is that we need to stay coor- dinated as much as possible and aligned as much as possible internally and with our partners. There will be times when we will speak different dialects within and along the supply chain on different
solution, and that’s OK. But we need to stay aligned and coordinated at every step of the way, because like it or not, there will be those who will look for ways that we might differ. Or that will look for ways to divide us if they can. So we need to maintain that internal discipline as a sector, to be coordinated and as aligned as possible.
And then the third thing is just another fact. We can’t do this on our own. Our sector can’t do it on our own. And so that means we need strong partnerships with influencers like the folks on this panel and others who will help us make the case for markets and trees and wood as a solution for carbon mitigation scale. We will go much farther with a much broader range of influencers and policy makers if we’re working in this kind of a coalition rather than trying to do it on our own.
EH: Robert, what did that survey of rural attitudes on conserva- tion issues in the environment reveal about how folks are thinking about climate change and sort of environ- mental protection in general in rural
RB: Anybody that spends time with rural constituencies knows that there’s this deep-seeded stewardship ethic in rural parts of the country. But there’s also concern about the way environmen- tal laws have been implemented, written. We’ve done a series of focus groups across the country, we’ve done some polling of rural voters and suburban and urban voters, and we’ve done interviews with rural leaders across the country. We’re really trying to get at whether there is an urban/rural divide on the environment — if so, what is it? And it turns out that yes, there’s a divide, but if you look at attitudes on who cares about the environment, there’s basically no difference between urban, suburban and rural voters. They both care about the environment about the same and quite a lot. There’s a stewardship ethic across
all Americans.
If you ask about economic tradeoffs,
maybe the divide is about rural folks seeing economic tradeoffs where maybe urban folks don’t, but that’s not the case either. In fact, urban or rural voters will talk about the importance of forest | 9

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