Written by Maddie Eberly
The Forest Stewards Guild can see the forest for the Queers (LGBTQIA+) – Where our trans foresters, gay and lesbian loggers, nonbinary field scientists, and queer students steward the land with their unique lens, bountiful knowledge, and unwavering dedication.
When I left my undergraduate studies and entered the workforce, I quickly came to realize there were few to no field-relevant community support networks available to folks holding Queer identities. During my studies, I participated with SWIFT, a group supporting women and other genders that may not feel supported in a male dominated space. SWIFT empowered me and gave me a toolbox to carry through my career in a male-dominated field. I wished I had similar tools for navigating homophobia and transphobia. At the time, I was disheartened to learn few Queer professional resources existed.
In 2022, I began working for the Guild, whose community felt more welcoming than any other forestry space I had previously encountered. After finding my feet, I quickly gained the courage to ask, “Can we host an event focused on Queer professionals in our field?”
The Forest Stewards Guild was formed in 1995 by a group of ecologically minded foresters who felt isolated in a field dominated by industry and profits. These individuals found each other and built the Guild community we know today. And so, with the support of the Guild I created Seeing the Forest for the Queers (SFQ). SFQ embraces the principles of these founding Guild foresters by connecting those who feel isolated, nurturing conversation, and building community while providing resources to support LGBTQIA+ needs and visibility in forestry and other natural resource professions.
“It is really in the original spirit of the Guild – a group of foresters who felt unwelcome in the profession a great deal of the time. The Guild was their professional safe space.” – Steve Harrington, Guild founding member
“Seeing the Forest for the Queers” comes from the saying “can’t see the forest for the trees.” In SFQ, we have flipped the phrase, replacing “can’t” with “can.” We are committed to equipping LGBTQIA+ identifying natural resource practitioners, professionals, and students with resources to aid in navigating their careers in forest stewardship. We can see the forest where there are Queers at work, stewarding our forests, directing policies, and making a positive, indispensable impact on the field.
We foster nationwide community through regular, discussion-based gatherings with LGBTQIA+ community members, provide a “naturally Queer” perspective on forest management, develop tools to support LGBTQIA+ forest stewards in the workplace, and empower colleagues to act as LGBTQIA+ allies. Since our first event in June of 2022, I’ve looped in my Southeastern coworker, Dakota Wagner, and a planning team of community members from around the country. Our little team has been hard at work: we have hosted six community gatherings, two webinars, and two social gatherings. We went from strangers in a (virtual) room to a robust network. I have acquired colleagues that I now work with outside of the SFQ space and am building relationships across the country focused on Queer visibility and forest stewardship. I receive notes and emails from folks asking questions or sharing stories of the impacts of SFQ. The community we have built has made a larger impact than I could have imagined at the start. In addition, I am excited to share that we have received our first formal funding from the Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund to plan and host workshops and events to continue to build SFQ programming. I feel confident in the strength and sustainability of the community we are building and look forward to the future of SFQ.
Learn more about Seeing the Forest for the Queers from the resources below!
Attend our upcoming panel discussion, “Diversity in the Woods – A Conversation with LGBTQIA+ Forest Stewards”