Arcata, CA Guild meeting, 1996

Written by Colleen Robinson

Our small world feels a bit more expanded with every passing day. Certainly, the “small world” reality contributes to the pandemic-level spread of Covid-19. In the weeks since, our daily distancing from in-person social interactions has given me a sense of space between all touch points in my life and world as well. It’s a strange juxtaposition as many of us can still pop on the computer and “connect,” yet are out of physical reach. The knowledge that the entire world is experiencing at least some similar challenges at the same time, can shorten the emotional distance between many of us, while so many still suffer far too many precious hours all alone or without critical support. I am inspired by the large scale, radical act of love I am witnessing as we sequester ourselves to care for others. And as in some cases, we expose ourselves to care for others.

No matter how you are weathering this storm, we all can benefit from community now. Built into the Forest Stewards Guild is a strong, supportive community that can pull together and support each other. We are working hard to find ways to help us all stay connected and hopeful.

1. Virtual Guild Gatherings! Just like we do in the woods, we can come together online or on the phone and share our thoughts, challenges, ideas, solutions, and results with each other. By soaking in other people’s perspectives and stories and sharing our own, we offer new possibilities. At the very least, we offer a sense of true empathy or understanding.

Our inaugural virtual Guild Gathering is open to members next Tuesday, April 21 at Noon PT, 1:00 p.m. MT, 2:00 p.m. CT, and 3:00 p.m. ET. We will spend some time sharing what inspires us and then break into small virtual groups to discuss specific topics of concern in more depth, related to our lives in forest stewardship. If this gathering proves helpful, we will host more and welcome others outside of our current membership. We may host gatherings specifically for students, or regions, or weekly gatherings to grapple with various topics. So far, these topics are potential discussion points:

  • Ways consulting foresters are adapting to social distancing,
  • Approaches to connecting with landowners during a pandemic,
  • Signs that Covid-19 may be forcing land sales,
  • The impact on market prices now and in the near future,
  • Safe approaches to working in the woods during a pandemic,
  • Ways you’re preparing for fire season,
  • Other things you are doing to respond.

2. If virtual gathering just really isn’t your thing, we also welcome emails from you. Please share adaptations you’ve made and the ways you are building resilience personally or in your community. Also include topics you’d like to see addressed in the virtual gatherings and documented afterwards. Include your ideas for us, or questions or needs you may have that this community could help resolve. Email membership@forestguild.org anytime and we’ll find ways to share your contributions and loop you in if you are able.

3. When we have material to share, we will create a resources page on our website. FAQs, insights, regional forestry information, tips and tricks from the field (or the home office), and more can be posted to help our community stay informed about the things for which we have unique expertise among us. Already, we have posted a Wildfire Resilience and Covid-19 webpage on our site, which shares information and resources from around the country.

The Guild is a powerhouse when it comes to like-minded forestry and allied professionals providing support and understanding in places where we may have thought no one else understands. But something even bigger exists here, and we see it in the Guild history we celebrate now in our organization’s 25th birthday year. From these like-minds and yet varied perspectives, we can create something new. Solutions, support, or perhaps even a meaningful shift of the status quo. Just by gathering, opening up in a trusted community, and sharing what we know to be true, including the “silver linings,” who knows what we might discover?