Rural Voices for Conservation

Rural Voices for Conservation

The recent Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) has been gathering for more than a decade, but never at a more uncertain time for federal policy. The RVCC meeting in Troutdale, Oregon was a chance for Guild members and others with similar land stewardship and policy views to discuss current issues and build partnerships.

In one of the first presentations of the meeting, Mark Rey, former Undersecretary for Natural Resources at USDA, recommended to the crowd, “Don’t get distracted. Watch the trend, not the oscillations.” Johnny Sundstrum, Siuslaw Institute, followed suit by highlighting the power of people’s attachment to place as a stronger force than partisan politics. Other leaders such as Vicki Christiansen, Deputy Chief of State and Private Forestry at the USDA Forest Service, echoed Mark and Johnny by asking the participants to be patient, but also “don’t dim your voice.” Rural, forest-based communities have an important contribution to make to the policy dialog. Paul Larmer, Executive Director of High Country News, brought this to the fore when he talked about the need to tell the stories of rural communities and the natural resources on which they depend.

A key part of an RVCC meeting is the detailed, solutions-oriented work. Participants gathered to discuss lessons learned and the nuances of collaboration and land stewardship tools such as the Joint Chiefs’ Restoration Partnership and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Other sessions focused on conversations and rural communities in the next Farm Bill.

An example of the sound policy work RVCC does is the Transition Proposal for a New Congress and Administration (http://www.ruralvoicescoalition.org/s/Transition-Recommendations-2017-for-Web-4d7f.pdf). This transition memo focuses on innovations that can spark rural prosperity and calls for investment in people and landscapes. Infrastructure development can put people to work in rural communities while addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance of everything from roads and bridges to hiking trails. The transition memo also identifies existing policies that can be used more widely by federal agencies to encourage partnerships and collaborative solutions.

The creative and focused policy work of RVCC continues to demonstrate is important value as a policy partnership for the Guild.