Case in Point: Information Exchange
At least two kinds of communication are relevant to the FCSFP: information sharing among participants and improving community awareness, understanding, and acceptance of community-based forest restoration. Few FCSFP-funded projects developed or implemented information-exchange strategies to improve public awareness. Most projects of the FCSFP are too small to have a structured informational component among their activities. But communication of their activities is still essential to their prosperity. What they have to say, how they say it, and who hears it are crucial to the project. It may be as simple as talking to neighbors, or as involved as testifying to Congress, which George Ramirez, Director of Las Humanas, has done. Sherry Barrow in New Mexico says she talks to her Congressman’s legislative staff regularly. The Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership has a formal strategy to increase public understanding of its activities and goals. Members of the FCSFP Steering Committee communicate by e-mail. The Catron County Citizen’s Group published The Citizen, which, until funding ran out, reported on forest- and healthcare-related developments in that New Mexico county. Colorado Timber Industry Association focuses its efforts on media messages that help to balance out other messages that they believe portray restoration forestry as a reincarnation of traditional timber logging. Grant recipients have always welcomed periodic phone calls from interested observers, because they value sharing information when opportunities arise. Perhaps the FCSFP itself is in the best position to adopt a future role of facilitating information dissemination relevant to restoration forestry and community development. Information exchange, particularly its annual workshop, is already a key activity it has participated in and on which it has received positive criticism.