Affirmation and appreciation. These are the two words that summarize my first time coordinating RVCC’s annual Western Week in Washington. I have affirmation that sharing stories from communities and practitioners provides a huge value to decision makers. I also have a newfound appreciation for the incredible talent and expertise our participants bring to the table, and for the work it takes to pull off what, as a former participant, always appeared to be seamless coordination leading to impressive outcomes.
Over the course of 3 days, 11 people from 5 Western states participated in more than 45 meetings with agency leads, congressional staff, and partners. While not always seamless (building evacuations on the Hill will disrupt the best laid plans), we were powerful and effective. We offered stories of experience from people working in community and place. We came with grounded insight into how programs are working, and what might be improved. We showed up offering practical solutions, not sound bites. We were politely persistent.
Prior to the trip we finalized three new RVCC Issue Papers on collaboration, working across all lands, and fire adapted communities. These papers, created with the knowledge and expertise of our participants, formed the basis for many of our discussions.
The big takeaways are not surprising, yet underscore the importance of a group like RVCC.
The #1 issue is fire. And in order to fix the way government pays to fight wildfires, we must have a comprehensive fix and cannot ignore the need to increase the pace and scale of restoration at the same time. Providing a community-based perspective in this discussion is critical.
Congress and the agencies agree that collaboration is the new way of doing business, but acknowledge that we need to improve the implementation of agreements. RVCC participants represent the leading edge of this movement.
Working across all lands is a common sense solution to reaching the scale and economic efficiency we’re all looking for in land management. RVCC can play a role in promoting those partnerships and helping communities learn from each other.
Overall, Western Week was a success. We connected with friends, both new and old, and look forward to keeping an open line of communication between our communities and the nation’s Capitol. We came home inspired and impressed...and with a long list of to do’s and follow ups.
--Karen Hardigg, RVCC Coordinator