For the past 15 years I have immersed myself in the conservation of the redwoods – those magnificent trees that have graced the Earth for millenia and continue to inspire visitors today. For six years as executive director of Save the Redwoods League, I was privileged to lead the movement to protect these natural wonders. Along the way I helped raise $100 million for redwood conservation, protected tens of thousands of acres of forests and open-space, forged new conservation partnerships, introduced thousands of kids to the redwoods — many for the first time, and helped advance our understanding of these forests. Despite these successes, the challenges ahead are significant.
For me, one of the most significant challenges is defining the relationship of people to place. For too long the conservation community has separated people from place. To put it crudely, many conservationists love places more than they love people. And when we protect a place its all too common to exclude people. This is where parks come in — in America, parks are the people’s places. Owned by no one individual, we’re all invited to use them. But even here, the pendulum has swung a long way in the direction of strict protection to the exclusion of people’s enjoyment. Clearly we need to ensure the natural resources are protected for the future, but its time to let people back in to define how they want to use and enjoy the parks that are protected by and for them. With a growing population, a rapidly changing climate, and increased pressures on land, this is no easy task! But for conservation to succeed long-term we need to succeed at this.
I plan to take my experience in the redwoods and elsewhere to explore this area and answer the question, “what’s up with conservation today?”