The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) had a busy 2019. Through programs focused on public, K-12 and landowner education, we were able to advance public understanding of forests and forest management, and encourage sound forestry.
In our Public Education program, we started the year with a bang with the release of Oregon Forest Facts 2019-2020 Edition. This is OFRI’s most popular publication, containing the latest facts on Oregon’s forests and their social, environmental and economic impact. Later in the year we followed up with a deep dive into the role of forestry in Oregon’s economy, with the 2019 Forest Report.
One of the highlights from our K-12 Education program was the publication of Life in the Forest. Developed for grades 6-8, this publication helps students understand how forests provide habitat for different wildlife species. It highlights current wildlife research and presents data for students to analyze. In May we worked with high schools from across the state as 180 students competed in the Oregon Envirothon natural resources knowledge and skills competition. Another big success was our high school teacher tour in June that focused on mass timber.
In our Landowner Education program, we published an updated Understanding Eastside Forests, which contains detailed information on managing forests in central and eastern Oregon. We also engaged directly with landowners through education sessions delivered by OFRI at Oregon State University Extension Service’s Tree School, as well as through the Oregon Small Woodlands Association (OSWA) and Oregon Tree Farm System annual meetings, and Neighbor to Neighbor woods tours hosted by OSWA and OSU Extension.
By far, the highlight of 2019 was an OFRI board-hosted forest tour, which took place in Bend in October. Approximately 50 people attended the tour, which highlighted collaborative efforts to restore the fire resiliency and health of fire-dependent federal forests in central and eastern Oregon. Tour attendees, including Sen. Jeff Merkley, state legislators and county commissioners, visited various sites in the Deschutes National Forest to examine forest restoration work led by the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, a forest collaborative group representing a diverse range of views and values for federal forests.
These are just a few highlights from the year. As we say farewell to 2019 and head into 2020, we look forward to continuing to educate the public, students, teachers and landowners about Oregon’s greatest resource: its forests.
For the forest,
I’ve always been a storyteller, but for the past 32 years I’ve made a career of it. First I worked for 16 years for the Oregon State University Extension Service, and now for the last 16 as director of forestry for the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI). Throughout my career I’ve had successes and failures, and I’ve learned a few things.
My storytelling takes many forms. Sometimes I call it teaching; sometimes writing; sometimes giving a presentation to a service group; sometimes making a video; sometimes moderating a panel; sometimes visiting with friends over a glass of wine.
1. Know the facts – A favorite storyteller from my college years was Emily Latella, played by Gilda Radner on “Saturday Night Live.” Emily would go on and on about some misunderstanding she had with the facts. Then when “Weekend Update” newscaster Chevy Chase would point out what the real facts were, Emily would say “Oh… never mind!” Being the one to say “never mind” is not good. I’ve found myself in this situation once or twice, and it has taken a lot of work to overcome it.
2. Know your audience – Interests, background, education and knowledge levels are different for each audience, and even from individual to individual. For instance, policymakers are known to be smart people, but their policy knowledge is generally about like the Platte River: a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s very likely your audience is not as expert as you are. Never over-assume what they know.
3. Develop messages that resonate with the audience – Telling a story to high school students is very different than telling it to policymakers, professional foresters or the adult public. Telling the public that a certain forest management practice such as clearcutting is economically efficient is a waste of time and might even be counterproductive. Telling the same audience that clearcutting can help create habitat for species such as songbirds and pollinators is much more effective. Crafting the correct message for the people you’re talking to requires knowing the audience.
4. Find a hook – A hook is a story starter that gets people’s attention and encourages them to read, listen or watch. One of my favorite hooks is in the old Euell Gibbons Grape Nuts commercial, where he starts out asking his audience if they’ve ever eaten a pine tree. He then states that “many parts are edible,” and makes a comparison to Grape Nuts, which apparently also has many edible parts. I must advise you to be very careful with using humor as a hook. I’ve found out over the years that it can be very easy to offend people, and offended people rarely listen to the rest of your story.
5. Follow the KISSING principle – I learned the KISSING principle early on. This acronym stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid; I’m No Genius. Although most people do think they’re “smarter than the average bear,” many actually are not. As experts, foresters often try to tell people everything we know about a subject because we think they’ll be impressed with our knowledge and therefore believe what we tell them. I’ve learned that it doesn’t actually work that way. Instead of attracting listeners with my level of knowledge, I lose them in the details.
6. Tell the story in a journalistic style – Put the most important point you want to get across first, and then add the details. In newswriting, this is known as the “inverted pyramid” format. Don’t build a deductive case. Foresters are generally trained in the scientific method, and we like to communicate in this way. Don’t do it; use the journalistic style for your story. Most people read only headlines of articles as they scan a paper, journal or newsletter. Some read the first paragraph, fewer read half the story, and almost no one reads to the end. If you don’t have your main point in the first or second sentence, most people will never read it. By the way, if you’ve made it this far in my blog, you probably are “smarter than the average bear.” (I sure hope that was funny.)
7. Recognize the emotional response of the audience – People would generally rather hear good news than bad news. Messages that affirm the good in people are readily acceptable by most folks. This point ties back to understanding the audience. People value wildlife, water quality, beauty and recreation from their forests. The good news is that foresters also value wildlife, water quality, beauty and recreation. Explaining forest management in terms of these elements will likely get a positive response from your audience.
8. Use the right messenger – Public polling research by OFRI and others has identified that not all messengers are equally trusted and listened to by the public or policymakers. People today have an inherent distrust of corporations, the federal government and environmental groups. They have a much stronger trust for university professors, state government employees, family forest landowners and professional foresters. I believe part of the reason for the trust is based on the relative position on the education versus advocacy continuum. At OSU Extension we always said that when advocacy starts, education stops.
9. Measure the audience’s reaction – One of the advantages of being a professional storyteller is you have the resources to see how effective your stories are. When we run an educational advertisement, we follow up with surveys to see if people recall our ads, if they understand the point we were making, and how our ads may have changed what they believe about important issues. This helps influence the messaging we use in future campaigns.
10. Repeat, repeat, repeat – Someone once told me that the word repeat has made the shampoo industry millions of dollars. This is also the million-dollar word when it comes to storytelling. Every time I hear or tell a story, I get a different level of meaning out of it. People forget. They also love to hear stories they know.
I hope you find these tips helpful – and thanks for telling our forestry story.
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
I’m in a forest filled with eucalyptus trees, standing next to ferns taller than I am. I’m definitely feeling like I’m not in Kansas anymore! Or, to be biologically correct, I’m not in my native Douglas-fir forest type. Instead, I’m far from home in a forest on Mount Wellington in Tasmania, overwhelmed by all the plants and animals I’m seeing that I’ve only ever read about in textbooks.
I’m here representing the OFRI as a guest of the Forest Education Foundation Inc. (FEF). FEF is nonprofit educational institution that has been providing learning experiences for teachers and students throughout Tasmania for over 25 years. It’s a bit like OFRI in that it receives its core funding by way of sponsorship from Sustainable Timber Tasmania and the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania. And, just like OFRI, education is a priority for the foundation.
Last year two educators from FEF, Darcy Vickers and Hannah Kench, visited Oregon to find out about K-12 forestry education resources and programs offered here. They toured the state and visited the sites of various forest education field programs, including OFRI’s Natural Resources Education Program at The Oregon Garden as well as Forest Today and Forever’s Forest Field Days program in Lane County and the Oregon Department of Forestry’s program at the Tillamook Forest Center.
They were also very interested in OFRI’s Oregon Forest Literacy Plan (OFLP), a conceptual framework for educators that lists concepts about our forests every K-12 student should know. Their goal was to write a plan for Tasmanian forests following our model.
This year Darcy and Hannah invited me – plus Rick Zenn, a senior fellow at the World Forestry Center in Portland, and Joan Mason Ruud, state director of Talk About Trees, a classroom program for preschool through eighth-grade students that’s funded largely by OFRI – to visit Tasmania and present sessions on K-12 forestry education at their “The Stories Behind the Trees” conference, held Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.The conference was attended by classroom teachers and representatives from their forest sector.
On the first day of the conference, the Forest Education Foundation rolled out their forest literacy plan, which is modeled after OFRI’s Oregon Forest Literacy Plan. Conference attendees discussed the plan and why it’s important to both foresters and educators.
The second day of the conference was a forest tour that featured their new Forest Field Day program. It’s modeled after the Forest Today and Forever program Darcy and Hannah observed in Lane County last year. It featured a series of learning stations in the forest where students learn about various forest-related topics, including soil, wildlife and wood products. Instead of measuring Douglas-fir trees at the forest inventory station, we measured eucalyptus trees! The pilot program was well received by conference attendees.
It was inspiring and gratifying to see how well these “Oregon ideas” for K-12 forest education worked in Tasmania. I’m looking forward to more communication and sharing of ideas with the Tasmanian educators.
Director of K-12 Education Programs
Forester Friday features an Oregon forester with an interesting or unique contribution to the forestry field. This series is meant to highlight and recognize these stories.
This week’s Forester Friday isn’t about a forester, but someone who is still important to the forest sector. Fran Cafferata Coe is a Certified Wildlife Biologist® who works with foresters. She is the owner of Cafferata Consulting, a firm that specializes in helping timber companies manage wildlife in working forests. So while Fran isn’t a forester, she still plays a vital role in forestry.
Fran has been a wildlife biologist for 20 years now, and has owned her company for 10 years. Her daily responsibilities include writing and implementing wildlife management plans, conducting species surveys, and tracking wildlife policy in the state. In addition, she also helps foresters understand policies to ultimately protect wildlife and help keep forests healthy.
Along with her job experience, education has played an important role in Fran’s career. Fran attended Oregon State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife.
For this profile, Fran answered a series of questions about her forest story via email. Here are some of her responses.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Besides working in the woods by myself? I love working with foresters to make a difference for wildlife while still growing trees and keeping working forests working. I also love seeing wildlife out in the woods. I’m out at night looking for owls, so I get to see all kinds of critters like bear, cougar and elk. I especially love the woods in the springtime when the red flowering currant starts to bloom.
What drove you or why did you decide to work in your field?
I’ve always loved being in the woods. I grew up in a forestry family, which definitely influenced my decision to become a wildlife biologist. I feel strongly that working forests provide great habitat for wildlife. I’m passionate about helping foresters intentionally manage for wildlife, and I also work hard to help the public understand the value working forests provide for wildlife.
What is something you want people to know about your job and/or the impact of your job?
All ages of forests provide homes for wildlife, and the way we manage our forests makes a difference for wildlife. All of us have a responsibility to manage for healthy forests, and that includes managing for wildlife. With fairly simple but intentional actions, we can all make a difference for wildlife.
What is your favorite outdoor activity in Oregon?
My heart belongs to the mountains. I love backpacking each summer with my best friends. We find a new place to go each summer.
Fran is just one of many people who help foresters protect wildlife and keep forests healthy and safe for all.
If you know an Oregon forester with an interesting or unique story we should share, email OFRI Social Media Intern Autumn Barber at email@example.com.