Your Story Is Your Brand

Note: I am busy preparing my comments for the National Forest System land management planning rule DEIS. In the meantime, for your reading pleasure and general edification, I highly recommend:

Your Story Is Your Brand

A speech by Jim Petersen, Co-founder and Executive Director, the non-profit Evergreen Foundation

To the Thirty-third Annual National Indian Timber Symposium, Lewiston, Idaho, April 20-23, 2009

which may be viewed [here].

Selected excerpts:

Scientific forestry has been with us for a very long time. Its principles come to us from the Prussian School of Forestry. They were first taught in our country by Bernard Fernow, who set up the old Division of Forestry, which later became the U.S. Forest Service, and Carl Schrenk, who set up the first demonstration forest at Biltmore, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s fabulous country estate in North Carolina. I believe both Fernow and Schrenk were graduates of the Prussian School of Forestry.

But there are much earlier examples of the successful manipulation of land by people in pursuit of civilization’s most basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter. One of them is referenced in the diary of a soldier who was part of the Desoto Expedition that marched the length of Florida in the 1500s. He wrote about the vast corn fields that he observed - part of the highly advanced maize-based culture Indians established along the eastern seaboard in Lord only knows when.

Archeologists were to later discover remnants of water diversion systems in the Southwest, where some of your ancestors irrigated crops hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

Early white explorers also found you using fire to manage your forests - in many ways a tool every bit as efficient as chain saws and mechanical harvesting systems.

Today, we are again using fire in our forests, and some of us think we invented it. Of course, we did not - you did - and I tend to think its modern-day use is as much for political purposes as it is for reasons have to do with the need to remove excess biomass from forests.

Although you ancestors did not have science in the same way we have science today, they were nonetheless very keen observers of nature - and equally important - they were pursuing a goal or objective, which was to feed, clothe and shelter their number by first manipulating nature. …

Somehow, we need to find a way to build on this idea. What passes for forestry on federal lands today is a travesty. Even so, it’s unlikely that the Congress is simply going to hand you the keys to the national forest system. But they might be interested in setting up some very large demonstration projects that you could manage the way you manage your own forests. What if the Colville tribe had the chance to actually manage say, half the Colville National Forest through the next rotation? What if the same opportunity were given to the White Mountain Apache or the Yakama or any other tribe that owns and manages timberland adjacent to a national forest?

Does this idea have any validity? I’d like to think so, but then I am biased in your favor. Be that as it may, I sincerely believe that a side-by-side comparison of what you are doing on your lands with what the government is doing on federal lands would give the public the opportunity they need to decide once and for all which management program yields the results they prefer: yours or the governments. I can’t help but think they’ll like what you do much better than they like what the government is doing.

As you can readily see, there is a lot to think about in the larger context of what branding is, how brands are created and what branding may bring to tribes that own and manage timberland in these United States. Since 1986, we have made it our mission at Evergreen to tell the forestry story in all of its grandeur - and where forestry converges with cultural, historic and spiritual values I know of no grander story than yours.

Always, always, always remember, your story is your brand, and thus a window on your soul. And always remember that where your story is concerned, we will be with you every step of the way.



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