Over 1,400 people converged on Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the 2015 SAF National Convention. It is always inspiring to attend the national convention, to see old friends and colleagues from around the country, and to make some new friends. The opening session provided a wonderful overview of southern forestry, and some of the major issues from the changing wetland forests in the coastal plain of Louisiana. Massive mortality is taking place as a result of the changing hydrological patterns from channelization and water diversions. These forest losses amplified the impacts of Hurricane Katrina in the urban areas along the Gulf of Mexico.
NorCal’s own Kevin O’Hara was a general session speaker on forestry education, sharing perspectives from the 2014 Berkeley Summit on Forestry Education. The opening session also had an outstanding keynote presentation from Heather Tallis of The Nature Conservancy. Heather is based out of Santa Cruz, and she talked about the importance of working forests in conservation and how SAF had helped her to gain a greater understanding of redwood forest management. She used some very interesting examples of how foresters, policy makers and health professionals can work together to improve the quality of life for all. We’ll try to get her engaged with NorCal and SoCal SAF in upcoming meetings. The most exciting part of the convention was the large number of students in attendance. There were over 40 students from Cal, Cal Poly and HSU at the convention, making California students the largest cohort of any state. Over 100 alumni from the three California four-year schools, along with Reedley College, met together during the alumni gatherings. It was great to have such a wonderful collection of California folks down in the bayou country! It was great to see a good age class distribution in attendees! It speaks to the future health of SAF.
In addition to the science and practice part of the convention, there was a lot of opportunity for governance of our society. Tamara Hana and Bill Snyder were active participants in the House of Society Delegates, and our current District 3 Board of Directors representative, J. Lopez represented us at numerous meetings and events. Delegates to the convention heard from SAF national officers and our staff in an early morning session. They reported on progress with the SAF branding project, as well as a new communication initiative led by SAF communications director, Jeff Ghannam. Throughout the convention, there were “policy and popcorn” sessions, on topics such as fire planning, diversity, climate change and tax policy. This was a chance to hear first hand about SAF’s policy initiatives and to comment directly on those.
For those of you who have never attended a national convention, I encourage you to come to the 2016 convention, scheduled for November 1–5, in Madison, Wisconsin. It is truly encouraging to see the wide diversity of activities that your professional society is undertaking on your behalf, and to plug in yourself and become part of the story!
In conclusion, I wanted to thank J. Lopez for his three years of dedicated service to District 3 (NorCal, SoCal and Hawaii). J. has been a tireless advocate for all of you, and has been an instrumental part of the reform of SAF governance, brought about by the new articles of incorporation and the move to a Board of Directors from the Council, under the leadership of our CEO Matt Menashes. I very much appreciate the vote of confidence you have placed in me to take over from J. in January, and know that I have big shoes to fill. Please keep in touch with any questions or concerns. SAF is only as good as the time you put into it, and I hope you all find a place to apply your talents.