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A Forest for the Trees

10/11/2016 11:08 AM | Stephanie Brown (Administrator)

Have you ever put down roots, branched out, or been out on a limb? I’m amazed by the many ways that trees and forests are used to describe everything from basic life advice to the family tree.  It’s no wonder that the Illinois Forestry Association can be compared to a managed forest.

Getting Started.
Like any forest established on bare land, the IFA had to be planted.  Our founders cared a great deal about Illinois forests and wanted to do something about the limited support system in place for the stewards of these lands.  Just as landowners plant or manage trees with a better future in mind, our founders had a vision for what the IFA could become.

Professional Planning Assistance.
You might say we started with something like a tree planting plan.  A steering committee put together the guiding documents for the IFA and selected our first official leaders, with government agencies assisting in our start-up.  Board members became trustees or stewards of the Association, and began to recruit the trees - members like you - that would make up the “charter forest.”
Once the IFA was established, technical advisors continued to be available for support as our efforts “took root.”  In fact, the ongoing assistance of professionals has been instrumental to the IFA’s growth and success.  Their professional guidance set us on a path to a well-managed association.  Sound familiar?

We care about our trees (and forests).
If there is one thing we all have in common, it’s that we care.  The IFA aspires to connect members with the resources they need to grow as forest stewards.  We’re monitoring for problems and taking action to protect member interests.  We are also aspiring to serve the members who don’t own or manage a forest.  Tree lovers who support what we are doing to conserve the forests of Illinois are welcome, too!  Our members are able to see the forest and the trees.

Toward an adequately stocked forest.
Forests can have too few or too many trees per acre.  Good management leads to just the right balance to make the best use of the resources the site has to offer.  Retaining members and recruiting new ones will enable the IFA to cover more ground.  We need “enough” members to be viewed as a significant voice by those we want to influence.  Like a managed forest, progress can seem slow, and there is the occasional setback.

Aiming for a good mix of desirable species and age classes.
Illinois landowners are as diverse as the forests they own.  We need to reach as many as possible to encourage more conservation on the landscape.  The IFA needs men and women of all ages, with varied perspectives, diverse situations, and unique management goals.  We need the veterans and the rookies -- all connected by a functional “ecosystem” that respects individual differences while doing good works that make the whole better than the sum of its parts.

Getting and staying healthy. 
Good forest stewards strive to control invasive plants, manage insect and disease outbreaks, and favor the trees that show the most promise.  A healthy forestry association monitors and responds to threats, too.  We focus our limited resources on the efforts that produce the best return.  It’s not all wine and roses, though.  Sometimes it seems like the IFA is like a little oak seedling on a shady forest floor, longing to be released from the conditions that limit our growth - earnestly seeking the resources needed to reach great heights as an organization.  Let the sun shine in!

Ours is a working forest. 
Working forests produce a variety of goods and services.  They earn their keep depending on how they are managed and for what landowner-driven outcome - be that timber, wildlife, recreation, or all of the above.  The IFA has to be well-managed in order to be all it can be, too.  We extend value to our members while advocating for a good cause:  healthy and productive forests throughout the state.  We act on issues that impact rural and urban forests and promote forestry in Illinois.  Like most forests, we continue to be a work in progress.  We produce what we can.  It helps to be patient.

Harvest time.
It’s not a perfect analogy.  We don’t harvest members who are past their prime in order to make room for new ones.  We do, however, make good use of the dues and donations that members contribute.  Volunteer board and committee members also give their time and energy to the cause.  Without you - and them - we couldn’t afford an IFA.

Sadly, mortality can be a factor when a member quits or passes away.  Hopefully, we will always be bringing new members into the fold so that the IFA forest can be renewed for generations to come.

There’s an old Greek proverb that says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  Forestry is a long term endeavor, carried on by dedicated stewards who have a legacy to impart.  The same can be said of the IFA.

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