Each month, you can learn about one of the World Forestry Center’s visiting International Fellows who has been selected for a six-month assignment to collaborate with forestry practitioners here in the Pacific Northwest. The Fellows are passionate, engaged in their local communities, and committed to driving change in forest management practices around the globe.

Headshot_Adam

Adam Wasiak

Where are you from?

I am from Poland, a country in Eastern Europe and one of the 28 European Union member countries. Our population is 40 million in a geographic area only slightly bigger than Oregon! Warsaw, the capitol, has two million people. There are 10 towns in Poland with 500,000 to 1 million people.

What do you do in Poland?

I’m the Senior Advisor to the Directorate General of State Forests, an organization that is very similar to the Oregon Department of Forestry. I focus on state-level planning and operations of forests and how to manage our public forests to achieve positive economic, social, and environmental outcomes.

What attracted you to the World Forest Institute Fellowship Program?

I applied to the program to learn about forestry in public forests in the United States. Forests in Poland are all publicly owned, so I was seeking a fellowship in a place with similar ownership structure. In the eastern part of the US, it’s mostly private forest ownership. In Oregon, forestland is 60% public ownership. Plus, the Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful forests in the world. It is famous because of its Douglas-fir and rate of growth. It’s actually quite rare to find a forestry fellowship program led by an NGO.

What was on your professional and personal wish list of things to accomplish while working at the World Forestry Center?

Most importantly, I came to learn about sustainable forest management in public forests, so I spent much of my time on understanding forest management planning. I was especially interested in the connection between forestry and the wood products industry. Similar to Oregon, wood products are very important to Poland’s economy. The changes the industry has experienced are also similar, such as the new products made of engineered wood like laminated veneer lumber and cross-laminated timber. Overall, the wood products industry in the Pacific Northwest is much more efficient and modern, and sawmills are more automated with modern technology that requires few people to operate them.

You’ve been here in Portland for six months. What are some of the highlights for you?

The trips to the forest were the most exciting for me. It’s been a great opportunity to see all of the forest zones and diverse types of forests in Oregon and neighboring states from ponderosa pine on the eastside to Douglas-fir in the western part of Oregon and redwoods in Redwood National Park. The redwoods is the place every forester has to go in his or her lifetime. No pictures can fully explain the magnificence of these trees. You really have to see them in person to fully appreciate them. I also had the opportunity to see forests never touched by people, which is very rare to find in Europe. All forests in Europe are managed by people, so it was a good opportunity to see how nature manages the forest. In Europe, zero forest fires are allowed. We do everything possible to avoid forest fires, but here in the United States, it’s more part of nature. We have a much bigger danger from forest fires due to our population density.

What’s one of your observations about Oregon or Portland?

People are so open to others here and connected to each other. This is very different from Europe. Even in the workplace, people here are working in a more horizontal management system. In Poland especially, there is much more hierarchy. This influences many things from the atmosphere to levels of efficiency. I think the horizontal management system is partly why the US works well with other countries. You can share information with others and receive feedback about what you are doing. It’s much easier to connect the top with the rank and file. I’m very impressed by the professional environment in Portland and enjoy it very much here.

What are you going to miss the most about your experience here?

The opportunity to simply learn what I need to learn and want to learn. This has been the best time in my whole career–to be able to learn what is most interesting to me. It will be very difficult to repeat this beautiful story.

What else can you tell us about yourself?

I’m a 4th generation forester. My great-grandfather was a forester. My family has over 100 years working with Polish forests. Forestry is a difficult line of work. In the family, you grow up with exposure to these problems. So it’s common for foresters in Poland to be multi-generational. Of course, I have it much easier than my great-grandfather did because we have cell phones now!

 

You can contact Adam directly at .

Be sure to watch Adam’s “Lightning Talk” comparing forest management practices between Poland and Oregon on the World Forestry Center’s YouTube channel.