Our project aims to increase the public’s participation with the Hood River Forest Collaborative, and to help them identify and engage with stakeholders. We plan to do this by helping the Collaborative develop an online presence, through which they can host events, share knowledge, and engage in outreach to invite more voices to the conversation.
The “What” of engagement can be tricky. Some say that we currently live in a post-truth world, where people often cannot agree on the facts. Our project could have particular challenges in this context; on social media, there is a lot of misinformation, and it can be hard to engage anonymously online.
However, we should not be scared to invite new perspectives, and let people’s engagement with the facts develop into a shared truth. By listening to, and engaging with, as many perspectives as possible, the forest service’s plan can be relevant and beneficial to a greater number of people. When people cannot agree on the facts, it can help to engage, and discuss diverse interpretations of truth. In the Collaborative’s work, this could mean discussing sharing land management knowledge online to a wider audience and providing a virtual (or physical) space for discussing the facts and how they apply to the current issues being debated.
In our initial interview with Andrew Spaeth, the facilitator of the Collaborative, we learned that they utilizes experts in various land management topics as guest lecturers, so that most members have a baseline understanding of the environmental issues they are discussing. This inspired us to think about how this knowledge could benefit non-members as well; social media outreach has the potential to broadcast and share this knowledge with a wider audience of stakeholders. As alternative facts become more widespread, especially over social media, this may prove to be challenging.
Another component of this will be using internet platforms to facilitate in-person engagement. The Collaborative is influential in the management of the Hood River ranger district, and many voices are not being heard. The Collaborative is currently composed mostly of representatives from industry and activist groups, and the meetings take place at the ranger station which can be inaccessible to many people who are stakeholders in the Hood River National Forest. As part of this project, the Collaborative could host social events, discussion events for a wider audience, and educational events to help provide some background for those unfamiliar.
Social media and an increased internet presence will allow others to comment informally on current projects. Additionally, this can facilitate the Collaborative having a greater presence in the community, and help them host events that are more accessible to a greater number of people than meetings at the ranger station. We think that through greater accessibility and a bigger conversation, more people will have an opportunity to engage with what land management looks like, and this will help people grapple with what the “facts” even are.
Edsall, Thomas. “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready.” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 12, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/opinion/trump-campaign-2020.html.
“Why Public Engagement Matters.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. Accessed April 14, 2020. https://www.aaas.org/resources/communication-toolkit/what-public-engagement.