Welcoming back Leonora to the Guild team

Interviewing a yerba mate grower in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil .

Written by Leonora Pepper

This spring I returned to the Guild staff after a two-year hiatus living and working in Brazil. Despite an unusual homecoming amid the pandemic, it has been exciting to see our organization’s ability to adapt in real time to continue providing strong initiative, collaboration, and program outcomes. I’m looking forward to an eventual return to working with colleagues in person, spending more time in the field, planning in-person events, and working more closely with members of our youth program.

I first came to the Guild in 2017 for a summer internship, and I stayed on that fall as a Program Coordinator in the Southwest office. A year later, life events took me to live in São Paulo, Brazil, where I worked with Solidaridad Network developing a program on yerba mate. For this project, I spent a full month on the road in Brazil’s three southern states, covering 4500 kilometers and interviewing 60 yerba mate growers and 16 family-owned processing plants as part of a supply chain analysis of this traditional agroforestry product.

An impressive Alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) encountered in the Zuni Mountains.

Upon returning to the U.S. this past spring, I had the opportunity to spend 6 months working closely with Amanda Mahaffey in the Guild’s Northeast region. I enjoyed getting to know our programs and partners in that part of the country, and I had the chance to collaborate with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS), work on Oak Resiliency in Southern New England, and support chainsaw safety training programs for Maine women woodland owners.

As of this fall I am back at the Guild’s Southwest office. I’m thrilled to return to New Mexico’s forest systems and open spaces, and one current focus of my work is the Zuni Mountains landscape of northwestern New Mexico. Through a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR) grant and a Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) grant, we are working with the Cibola National Forest and other regional partners to implement thinning and prescribed fire restoration treatments, with the aim of moving the landscape toward more resilient conditions.

I also continue to coordinate the national Women Owning Woodlands (WOW) program. Through WOW, I work closely with a network of professionals across the country to bring relevant and engaging programming and resources to women woodland owners and

enthusiasts, supporting them in active stewardship of their land. I have also been seeking out opportunities for the Guild to advance how we approach and promote diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in our organization and in our work. As this year has challenged us and pushed us to innovate and adapt, I couldn’t be happier to again be part of the Guild team.

Thanks to Leonora and Gabe Kohler for the photos in this article.