SAF Supports Pride Month

June 24, 2022

In coordination with our Diversity and Inclusion Policy, the Society of American Foresters (SAF) is committed to promoting an environment designed to embrace our differences in which all community members are welcomed and valued, creating diversity and inclusion in our leadership, membership, programs, and activities. SAF is making an intentional effort in 2022 to be more inclusive in the way we celebrate community members and connect with those who value forests and their benefits.

June is Pride Month, which is a time to support and empower the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Trans, and Queer Community (LGBTQ+) community. Themes for Pride Month across the country echo a sense of unity, emphasizing that our differences and individuality are what bring us together. In New York City, Pride is “Unapologetically Us”; in DC, Capital Pride is “reUNITED”; in Denver they are “Together with Pride”; in Salt Lake, “I AM Utah Pride.” Underlying Pride Month and each of these regional themes is the message that we all deserve to be safe and supported where we live, work, and play. And the same goes for the LGBTQ+ community in the forestry and natural resources profession. As a professional community, Pride Month is a time to ask ourselves: how can the forest industry grow and benefit from a mindset of compassion and curiosity? 

Jamie Dahl—the 2021 SAF Mollie Beattie Scholar and current Chair of SAF’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group—is publishing her doctoral research on how minoritized groups are engaged and included within the SAF community. As Dahl explained, “LGBQ+ community members in SAF shared that they had lower perceptions of culture in the organization as compared to those outside the LGBQ+ community (with culture being shared fundamental assumptions related to inclusion, equity, and transparency). LGBQ+ SAF members also reported lower sense of belonging as compared to non-LGBQ+ SAF members. These findings were statistically significant.” (Colorado State University Climate Survey, 2018; Johnson et al., 2007). Reflecting on Dahl’s research, SAF member and forester Kyle Gill wrote that “not only do all people deserve the chance to be able to be their full selves within the [forestry] community, but everyone benefits when we are able to bring our full selves to the table.” Pride Month is an opportunity for all of us in the profession to better understand, support, and include our LGBTQ+ community members! 

Despite the challenges, queer and trans leaders in the forestry community continue to overcome these barriers through demonstrations of compassion, resilience, and stewardship. Kyle Gill is Chair of Minnesota SAF and is the University of Minnesota's Experimental Forests forest manager and research coordinator based at the Cloquet Forestry Center. He is a practicing forester and silviculturist, as well as a part-time forest philosopher and storyteller with a passion for exploring our roles in the ecological community. E. Krause ("Krause") is Secretary of SAF’s DEI Working Group and a recent Master of Forestry graduate from Michigan Tech, now serving as the Outreach Coordinator for the school’s College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. Krause spent four years as a wildland firefighter with both the US Forest Service and the Michigan DNR prior to their enrollment. Their passion for DEI in natural resource professions stems from the feeling of "being the only one" while being on a fire crew.  And in 2019, Louren Escamilla was hired through the Recent Graduates Program of the US Forest Service at an SAF Convention and began her work in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. She is currently working as a presale forester for the US Forest Service in Waldron, Arkansas.

We are also grateful for the organizations that continue to center their work on the empowerment of the LGBTQ+ community in forestry and natural resources. The Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) is an LGBTQ+ inclusive conservation crew that provides youth and young adults with a safe place for individual growth in the great outdoors. Through their partnership with the National Park Service, NYC’s Rainbow Crew became the nation’s first LGBTQ+ youth conservation corps. Shelterwood Collective of Sonoma County, California is a Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ-led community forest and retreat center whose work stewarding 900-acres of forestland centers on building partnerships based in equity and ecological integrity. Additionally, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) runs a Special Emphasis Program for LGBT individuals, which aims to provide LGBT awareness and education to NRCS employees and partners while focusing on such issues as employment, retention, promotion, training, career development, and advancement opportunities affecting LGBT applicants and employees at NRCS. 

Many other organizations work for the general welfare of LGBTQ+ community, each with their own topics of interest and areas of care. The Trevor Project, for instance, is an organization determined to end suicide among LGBTQ+ youth by providing lifesaving and life-affirming resources, including a nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline. And the Out and Equal Workplace Advocates is an important resource for educating and empowering organizations, human resources professionals, employee resource groups, and individual employees to be inclusive and supportive of all sexual orientations, gender identities, expressions, and characteristics in the workplace.

Alongside a national network of natural resource professionals, SAF must ensure a more inclusive future for our professional community. During Pride Month—and every month thereafter—this begins with lifting and empowering the voices of our LGBTQ+ members and by acknowledging the path we’re on to cultivate representation and equity in the forestry profession. 

“As SAF supports Pride,” said SAF CEO Terry Baker, “I am reminded that it truly takes all of us to understand and manage our forests. We celebrate the community we have created and the one we strive to create. SAF represents the broad spectrum of forestry and natural resource professionals. Our LGBTQ+ members have faced challenges that I will never understand, but I know that their voices are and will be critical to expressing the importance of our forests and how they are stewarded.”