By DeAnn Stish, Healthy Forests Healthy Communities Great Lakes Coalition partner and principal at Pickford Strategic Communications
Minnesotans care about their forests, and our national forests are an important part of that equation. How forests are managed impacts everything from wildlife, water and air quality, climate change, and our economy. Two years ago, a coalition was launched in the Great Lakes that engages groups and individuals interested in the need for active, sustainable forest management. Healthy Forests Healthy Communities, or HFHC, provides an opportunity for all interests to weigh in on issues and to be more aware of forest issues across the country and in our backyard. To date, more than 10,000 people have logged on and used social media to add their voice to the debate.
The need to support balanced policies that promote rural economic opportunity while also maintaining the many benefits we have come to expect from our forests, including recreation and diverse wildlife populations is HFHC's goal. Our partners include local elected officials, business and labor groups, law enforcement, educators, tribes, sportsmen and outdoor groups, and more.
Currently, wildfire funding is a critical issue facing our country. Although Minnesota has not yet experienced the kind of widespread, devastating fires taking place in western North America, the funding of these western wildfires directly impacts Minnesota as budgets are tapped each year to fill the funding gap. A long-term plan to fund wildfire management is finding the responsible and realistic way of dealing with these wildfires. Funding to manage wildfire is a bi-partisan and multi-region crisis that Congress needs to address. Additionally, streamlining forest projects that address time-sensitive insect, disease and wildfire risks are vital to the health and future of our forests and the habitat that depends on healthy forests. In Minnesota, we need to address overstocked and over-aged forests that deny wildlife such as moose, deer, grouse, and turkey the young forests they need to thrive.
Take a moment to explore the HFHC website or check us out on Facebook and add your voice to the dialogue. Recreationists, county interests, hunting, conservation groups, scientists, and those who are concerned about climate change all need to engage. In this modern era of social media, it is easy to keep updated about issues facing our forest in our backyard and across the country.
Minnesotans have a strong history of engagement and HFHC is proud of our accomplishments in bringing many diverse voices to the table! Join in to add your input to these important policy efforts.