I just returned home to the mountains of Eastern Oregon after a post-election trip to DC. As I talked with rural innovators from across the nation, and as I return home, I’m struck by the need for unifying solutions in our communities. Solutions that strengthen the integration of economy, community and environment—solutions that bridge the divide between urban and rural.
Today, rural communities across the West remain in a sea of political and social turbulence. America’s recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2009 was concentrated within the nation’s most vibrant urban centers. This was the first time that rural jobs and businesses not only failed to lead an economic recovery, but failed to show up at all.
Yet significant opportunities exist for strong returns on investment in natural resource stewardship—in investing in resilient forests and rangelands. Beyond the long-term benefits to the national treasury and tax-payer, these investments would help revitalize our rural communities while improving public and private lands and reducing the risk posed by wildfire and invasive species. Such investments would contribute in meaningful ways to a new dynamism across the United States, and restore the sense that everyone is advancing together.
The Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) is promoting practical solutions to advance these kinds of stewardship investments. Most importantly, these solutions are collaborative and place-based. We draw on the experience of local practitioners, county government, local businesses, and federal employees across the West. Parties that historically battled over resource use and protection are clearly uniting around a new vision, and an open, inclusive process, for managing federal lands.
It is critical to the health of our public lands and their neighboring rural communities that we build on this foundation, that we invest in the value of a stewardship economy. RVCC provides a unifying forum and voice for these rural communities—and a network to catalyze innovative solutions to the underlying challenges.
Our commitment to this work has remained constant and bipartisan over the past 16 years. A strong, unified rural voice has a unique opportunity to advance rural development and job creation through land stewardship in the West. We invite you to join our network and support us in the months and years to come.
--Nils Christoffersen, Executive Director of Wallowa Resources (RVCC's fiscal sponsor)