By: Rebecca Turner
Chief Strategy Officer
American Forests

What if people were trees?

Foresters and researchers around the world would be looking at the health of our communities and what keeps them strong, as they have for centuries. But there would be heightened urgency and more talk about solutions like species diversity and its potential for building forest ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change and its increasingly devastating impacts.

These diversity, inclusion, and equity discussions, about forests and people alike, are happening right now. Into their midst comes the Women’s Forest Congress (WFC), a movement dedicated to ensuring the voices of women representing diverse perspectives rise up in our collective discussion about the present and future of forests and humanity.

I’m here to invite you into the movement.

Event to Movement to Collective

WFC’s objectives are to take a fresh look at forest management, protection, and sustainability through the eyes of people who traditionally have not been invited into the discussion, and from there to create radical positive change for our forests across the landscape, from cities to wilderness.

WFC is firmly planted in the tradition of the American Forest Congress and the World Forestry Congress, forums that have long provided opportunities for give and take on forest-related issues and development of recommendations from citizens, foresters, policy makers and scientists.

The idea for a Women’s Forest Congress took its first breath at a forest-sector conference in 2019. Several influential women were discussing the value of the event, but when they looked around the hall the low representation of women and people of color was striking.

We recognized that, because differing and unique viewpoints have not been part of the decision-making in the past, forestry overall has missed out on many creative and intelligent approaches and solutions. More than that, we understood that new ideas from people who traditionally have not been at the table are crucial to the future of forestry, which can and will enhance the outcomes of our collective efforts. We agreed there should be a Congress to elevate all voices into managing and sustaining forests. Following the conference, we got to work creating a first-of-its-kind forestry Congress.

Then COVID-19 hit.

But that didn’t stop these determined women leaders.

We stayed at it, bringing more people into the fold, and forming the foundation of a movement that has continued to evolve and grow through networking, social media, and online forums. Today, nearly three years later, WFC has become more than event or even a movement. It’s now what I like to call the WFC collective, a group of women and allies who care about forests and the future of life on our planet.

Forest-to-Forest, Face-to-Face

WFC has definitely tapped into a need.

It’s apparent in our virtual event participation, the number of people signing up for our various communications, likes and follows on our social media platforms and the companies and organizations stepping up to put funding behind the effort. People realize what WFC stands for and what we’re doing, and they want to be part of it.

And now, finally, we’re all going to have a chance to meet face to face.

The 2022 Women’s Forest Congress is scheduled for October 17-20 in Minneapolis.

Hundreds of us will be connecting with others, sharing our experiences and ideas, discussing the latest developments and, most importantly, developing recommendations that will help shape our future and the future of our forests.

The Congress will revolve around five themes:

  • Leadership for Equity & Inclusion
  • Workforce Opportunities for Increasing Recruitment, Retention, and Leadership
  • Women as Catalysts for Change
  • Addressing Today’s Greatest Forest Challenges
  • Supporting Each Other

We have no doubt your knowledge and perspective would be beneficial to the rest of us.

Help Us Change the World

This is an incredibly exciting time for people in any aspect of forest protection, management and sustainability of urban and rural forests.

What we do now, how we approach problems and implement solutions will reverberate into the future.

WFC is extending the great work of the American Forest Congress and World Forestry Congress while adding to it a focus on where we want to be in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

That’s appropriate because, in many ways, we are the trees, and the trees are us. We’re all in this together. And just as diversity in species results in greater climate-change resiliency for forests, diversity in voices, knowledge and experiences will result in more innovative and effective ways to manage, sustain, and enjoy our forests and planet.

I hope you can join us for this first-of-its-kind Women’s Forest Congress in October, but if that’s not possible, please join or financially support the WFC movement in other ways. You’ll be part of a collective of women who care about forests that’s becoming more powerful and influential every single day.