The Pacific Northwest hosts a multitude of different types of people, with their own views, experiences, and values. It is no different than the United States as a whole, where beliefs can be largely separated into what is known as The Six Hidden Tribes of America. Across divisions of class, race, gender, religion, education level, political affiliation, and more, successful engagement looks to find create an environment where everyone can both speak and listen to others in a search for commonality. In this environment, open communication is encouraged so that one can both educate others on their opinions and experiences, along with learning from others. Engagement is truly successful when a group or individual who is affected by the issue at hand, known as a stakeholder (Luyet et. al 2012), is not left out of the conversation. For Sustainable Northwest, including stakeholders in the conversation is a key element in how their organization operates. With a goal of including local interests in conversations surrounding natural resource management, the “who” of Environmental Engagement is especially crucial. This inclusion is on trend with the growing tendency of environmental groups in the western United States to believe it is important to try to find consensus on issues at a local level instead of searching for it through going to court (Ellsworth 2001). The majority of stakeholders that Sustainable Northwest communicates and collaborates with tend to be from rural areas, and apart of local economies that depend on industries such as timber, agriculture, and ranching. This large representation of rural communities in Sustainable Northwest comes from the fact that they tend to focus on groups in the natural resource sectors, where people in urban areas tend to be less involved with. The higher proportion of rural stakeholders, while having the benefit of being more involved in natural resource management, also leads to little representation of groups that are more congregated in nonrural areas.
A group our team recognized as underrepresented in the “who” of Sustainable Northwest, as mentioned in a previous post, is the younger demographic. While this is largely because there is simply a lower proportion of younger people in rural areas, we do think that young people have things to both learn and teach about their perspectives on a field that they will soon have to take over. Because of this, our team decided to choose young people, aged 16-25, as the “who” of our engagement partnership with Sustainable Northwest. Specifically, we would seek to include older high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate students with an interest in environmental issues. With environmental education being everchanging, current students are learning about natural resource management in a vastly different way than their predecessors currently in the field (Maestas 2002). As the field of natural resource management gains more and more postgraduate students, the way that it operates will evolve as new ideas and practices are implemented. Our team believes it is important for young people interested in getting involved in the field, and for current employees in natural resource management, to start communication as early as possible so younger generations can get involved in something they will soon be in charge of. To ensure a more diverse range of viewpoints, we aim to seek out students from a range of urban to rural schools, as well as students who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and those who grew up outside of it. By including young people, we believe that they can learn valuable lessons about natural resource management and important tools in how to get more involved, as well as being able to express their own ideas that may differ from the current majority seen.
Maestas, Jeremy D. “Natural Resource Management for a New Generation.” Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006) 30, no. 1 (2002): 278–79. www.jstor.org/stable/3784667.
Ellsworth, Peter; Ellsworth, Judith. 2001. “Involving Students in Natural Resource Decision-Making Groups.” Clearing House 74 (3): 137–40. doi:10.1080/00098650109599179.
Luyet et al. 2012. “A Framework to Implement Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Projects.” Journal of Environmental Management 11: 213-19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.06.026.