Tom Duffus, The Conservation Fund
Upper Midwest Director – The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund forges partnerships to protect America’s legacy of land and water resources. Through land acquisition, community and economic development, and conservation training, the Fund and its partners demonstrate effective conservation solutions emphasizing the integration of economic and environmental goals.
What aspect or aspects of the VFVC initiative will have the most lasting value for your organization, the forest or the state?
The VFVC Initiative was instrumental in developing Minnesota’s capacity to ensure the long-term conservation of our private forests. The historic Upper Mississippi Forest, Sugar Hills, and Koochiching Forest working forest conservation easement projects would not have been possible without it. VFVC created the forum for relationships to be built and networks to form to bring the necessary skill sets and focus to bear on generating public and private funding for these projects, which are good for Minnesota, its people, its economy and its forests.
What new experience have you had recently that impacts the way you view Minnesota’s forests?
I recently participated in a celebration of a forest for our community, state and nation –conservation of the Upper Mississippi Forest. Never have I been in a place – in this case a log landing yard deep in the woods, under a large “wedding” tent – at which everyone was happy. Forest issues historically are controversial. At a time when many are concerned for our economy, our environment and the future of our forests, this was a place to witness the hope that people have. This was a place to see firsthand the power of many hands pulling on the same rope to lift mountains and make positive change. My spirit was lifted and I was reminded of the MOST important thing: what we do as foresters, conservationists, business people and citizens is ALL about people. We work with and for people to achieve good things. If we lose sight of the human element we will be lost and our resources will languish.
In what way or ways do you see the work continuing that grew out of the VFVC initiative?
How can Minnesota tackle the parcelization of our private forest land base? As the eighth largest working forest conservation easement project in the U.S., and the largest in state history, the Upper Mississippi Forest combined with the Sugar Hills, Forest Capital Partners and other forest conservation easement projects have proven that this state can tackle the tough and expensive job of permanently ensuring the benefits of private working forests. This momentum continues under the moniker of the DNR’s Minnesota Forests for the Future Program. This program, and the accomplishments to-date, is a direct result of the Initiative. The Program has wings and a plan to fulfill the need, and momentum for future successes in securing and protecting our forest land base. Let’s hope the Legislature continues its support for forest conservation under the Land, Water and Legacy Amendment.
What do you hope Minnesotans perceive about their forests today?
My hope is that all Minnesotans will continue their tradition of looking to the woods as the keepers of our traditions and a place of solace. There is much to despair – it is being loved to death – but there is hope that our public and private forests are being managed better than ever before and that important private forests are being conserved for all Minnesotans.