Community Development

This Land is Shared Land

October 1, 2019  • Institute Staff

Over half of the American West is public land owned and managed by states or the federal government. As a result, land stewardship—and the tensions it creates among environmentalists, foresters, developers, and residents—has an outsized impact on the rural West. This was the topic of the most recent America’s Rural Opportunity event in Portland, Oregon, in June. The Institute’s Community Strategies Group and the Rural Development Innovation Group, in collaboration with the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition and Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government, hosted this event to showcase innovation in the rural West. The 10th in the series, the event was livestreamed nationwide. “It’s difficult for local communities to understand how all these competing interests affect their opportunities and the role of public lands in their local economies,” Mark Haggerty of Headwaters Economics said. To seize new opportunities, the speakers encouraged communities to build partnerships with longtime opponents. Blue Mountain Forest Partners’ Mark Webb said successful collaboration “took three long years of developing relationships with people you don’t like initially and think you can never understand.” All the speakers—including Colorado State University’s Tony Cheng, Attorney General for the Kootenai Tribe Billy Barquin, and Salmon Valley Stewardship’s Toni Ruth—spoke of the hard work it takes to make alliances and bridge regional land-use tensions. Luckily, that hard work is paying off: communities are navigating policy and regulations, and stewarding natural resources for healthier economies and more resilient ecosystems.