|February 8, 1994
To Whom It May Concern:
In November 1987, the Umatilla Forest Resource Council (UFRC), a group of local citizens organized to address the planning process for the Umatilla Forest, invited Chris Maser to present a public address on sustainable forestry. At that time, he also agreed to conduct a half-day workshop for UFRC, helping us to focus our efforts on the process and on ways to approach forest planning.
When the Draft EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] for the Umatilla National Forest was released the following month, UFRC joined with Ralph Perkins, District Ranger on the Walla Walla Ranger District, and invited Chris Maser back. That time the invitation was to conduct a two-day workshop for a number of interested persons, all committed to involvement in the Umatilla Forest Plan. The group of thirty people was a cross section of Forest Service personnel, environmental activists, Confederated Tribes--Umatilla Indian Tribe, industry (private and corporate), Oregon and Washington Departments of Wildlife, Oregon Rivers Council, County government representatives, and other concerned citizens.
The primary objective of the workshop was to focus on interpersonal and philosophical foundations and the processes that provide the products on U.S. Forest Service lands. Chris Maser worked from the premise that before we could hope to settle land management issues out of court, we must shift our focus from a product only orientation to a process orientation. For two days we worked, first in small groups and then together in a large group, learning to set a vision and goals and in the process learning to help each other define areas of agreement and areas that might need to be negotiated. The end product of the workshop was to begin framing a vision and goals for the forest, based on those areas of agreement. Chris wanted to create a workshop that would help us make a necessary shift in thinking and a change in the process in such a way that all parties involved might retain our dignity--the prerequisite for "winning."
The sessions were based on mutual learning, sharing, defining fear, expectations, hidden agendas, and values exercises. We dealt with change and paradigms and perhaps most importantly, with the concept of dignity in consensus groups. Strong points centered around listening actively--not listening is a form of violence and forming a rebuttle [before the other person is finished speaking] is a defense mechanism. We shared a common concern for decisions in land management and recognized that the outcome of our work would in the end become a human judgment decision.
With that beginning, the "Guiding the Course" group set ground rules, jelled the make-up of the group and began working together in an effort to develop a sound management plan for the Umatilla Forest. Four years and countless meetings later, a final plan was released. I can give no better endorsement for Chris Maser and his training sessions than to state that the group is still intact in 1994, with some changes in individual members, and is still meeting on a regular basis to continue monitoring "our" national forest. Our success has been measured not so much in land management decisions, although there have been great changes there as well, but in the continued respect and dignity we give to each other. We have learned to listen to each other, to respect each other's opinions, to be unafraid to offer a candid opinion and we are still committed to the process. Perhaps most important, we are friends.
UFRC strongly endorses Chris Maser, his philosophy, and his attempt to instill some genuine caring into the now polarized process of natural resources land management.
Shirley Muse, Chairperson