For the first six months of the pandemic, I found myself drawn to the forest to reflect and restore. But as the hot, dry days stretched on here in the western United States, concerns about the upcoming wildfire season grew – heightened for me by my service as the chair of the mitigation committee for the Oregon Governor’s Wildfire Council last year.
In Zoom meetings, I would share the details of a challenging year for our organization, but also the heightened importance of our work. In a pandemic, forests are both an essential resource for economic and mental health, but also a potential risk if left ignored. In this business, one can feel like a Cassandra, speaking to the urgency of addressing potential future ills. But it never feels good when those ills come to pass. We do this work not because we are motivated by fear, but because we have hope and belief that these problems are solvable.
For World Forestry Center, 2020 has been filled with new challenges and opportunities. Our traditional funding model has been disrupted. Events and museum attendance, responsible for 60 percent of our annual revenue, evaporated overnight. Travel restrictions mean our international fellows program had to be cancelled for the year.
We do this work not because we are motivated by fear, but because we have hope and belief that these problems are solvable.
We moved swiftly, however. Since March we have adapted our Who Will Own the Forest conference to a new virtual format and attracted nearly double the typical attendees. We have reinstated our Leadership Hall committee and selected a diverse group of honorees. We have broadened our community of followers and supporters. Our Board of Directors continues to support the strategic pivot of the organization which began when I was hired two years ago. And our staff are doing more with less.
Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who has collaborated and engaged with us during this time. Your continued support of our work has kept us going. The impacts of COVID-19 will likely continue for a long time to come. Our Discovery Museum is closed and will remain so. Our ability to host large, in-person events will likely remain limited well into 2021.
However, despite the challenges, the successes give us hope. Our roots have spread and deepened. We are growing into something stronger. Our work shaping society and building public will for sustainable forestry means we must adapt and evolve.
We hope you will join us as we do.