The very first thing I would like to share with you as President of your IFA is a heart-felt “thank you” for your confidence in me personally. I do appreciate it! I also find myself in a rather unique position – I bring with me the valuable lessons of experience and trust to this responsibility. Having been President before and afterwards seeing how others have performed in this job, I have observed many very strong points of what to attempt to do as well as learning a few approaches that may not serve us as well at this point in time. Probably THE most important thing I bring with me is a strong TRUST in you – the IFA membership. Over the years, we have benefitted from a gradual gain of those who “get it” and a gradual loss of those who are not in IFA for what I consider the right reasons.
This brings me to the major message I wish to present to you as we start 2020 – Membership has always been a goal of ours – each and every Past President did his or her absolute best to grow the IFA. What they did not realize as they each served in their unique ways was that they were planting the seeds of what I am fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work with. Years ago, Presidents would ask the Board of Directors “to each get 2 new members before the next meeting – if we do that we will increase our membership by X members.” We tried specific recruitment techniques that had some limited success. Probably our biggest successful program was the joint venture we have had with IDNR where we were able to include an IFA letter in their bi-annual mailing to each landowner who had a Forest Management Plan on file with them.
Combine all these with on-going efforts to educate all of us on proper stewardship of our personal woodlands. Annual meetings have evolved to where extremely valuable and informative presentations are the routine rather than the exception. We truly LEARN about invasives, about the value of controlled burns, about the need for Timber Stand Improvements, about the need to plant a few trees if at all possible, etc. All of these individually are great and collectively, they are even better.
Trouble is – we still are not “there”. We still do not have that special feature of what we are trying to do that really captures both new members AND success with our personal management efforts. We do our invasive control on our property; we conduct controlled burns on our property; we invest heavily in proper forest management on our property. Do you see where I am going? “ON OUR PROPERTY!!!!” The problem is our neighbors simply sit there and watch us. What we do helps us for sure but in a year or two, if we don’t keep doing it, the invasive problem returns, the forest floor concerns come back.
There is one other idea that developed a couple of years ago that is my last piece of this particular puzzle – IFA Gift memberships. This is a program where any IFA member can give a one year membership to anyone they choose for $30. I did it with 3 of my friends and am proud to say all 3 have renewed their membership on their own. They are part of the “I get it” group because I knew they were interested and concerned about what was going on in their woods but needed some help making it all happen.
So, you ask “Where do we go from here? Sounds like the Gift Member-ship may work if more of us do it.” Well, that may be true but I have one more idea which ties this all together –
This Christmas, give a gift member-ship to each of your neighbors who have property bordering yours. In my case, If I did this I would have to send IFA a check for $120 since I have four properties involved. I could simply consider this a donation to the IFA and leave it at that. If even one of these is successful, then I now have a neighboring property owner willing to cooperate on management practices. We are much more likely have some success.
If you like the idea, simply download the “Gift Membership” form, fill it out properly and send it to Dave Gillespie. He will take it from there. As a side-note, I have also given gift memberships to my kids – in an attempt to expose them in a subtle manner to what I think is important on the ground they will someday be responsible for.
Gift Membership Form:https://ilforestry.org/resources/Documents/Forms/IFA%20GIFT%20membership%20form.01-18-18.pdf