SAF Member Spotlight: Dr. Sharon T. Friedman

April 29, 2022

Photo courtesy of Sharon T. Friedman

On a semi-monthly basis, SAF hosts a member spotlight that showcases the impressive work being done by someone in our professional community. This time, we had the honor of putting a member spotlight on Dr. Sharon T. Friedman, whose long and dynamic career has found her frequently engaged with and supporting the SAF community. We asked Sharon to share with us her forestry story: how she decided to enter the field, her path therein, and the reason she has been involved with SAF for so many years. 

Since 1974, or thereabouts—which is darn close to 50 years—I’ve been involved with SAF. Mostly I’ve spent my time on national committees: the Committee on Forest Policy, the Ethics Committee, and the Forest Science and Technology Board. I’ve been chair of each. I have fond memories of the folks who work with SAF’s National Capitol Chapter and the many potlucks we had at Wild Acres (the former SAF headquarters, which is now located in Washington, DC).

I’ve always loved trees; I grew up in suburban southern California and fell in love with trees and forests on weekend drives and at summer camp in the Angeles National Forest. When I got my first whiff of sun-warmed bark, it was love at first smell. I may have been a bark beetle in a past life.

As a high school student, I attended a summer ecology program put on by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in the Clackamas River drainage. We visited a Ranger District and a fellow from the USDA Forest Service showed us how to use an increment borer. Trees have stories to tell; I was hooked! Of course, it wasn’t easy to be a woman forester in the 1970s, but that’s how I ended up getting a Ph.D. I kept going to school until the Forest Service hired me, and I’ve never looked back.

My career in forestry has been mostly with the Forest Service. Fortunately, as I discovered, I had a chance to do different things, including research administration, National Environmental Policy Act, genetics, and planning. I found there was always another kind of position and always something new to learn. But SAF has always been my chance to meet people from the wider world of forestry. My SAF networks increased my capacity to do my Forest Service work, and vice versa.

One of my favorite memories was at an SAF convention many years ago in—if I remember correctly—the state of Texas. I was in a session discussing the red-cockaded woodpecker. The researcher presenting made some statement about the bird, and a field forester sitting in on the session said, “But that’s not the way it is where I work.” The presenting researcher responded to the field forester’s claim with “But that’s not in the literature!” I thought to myself, ‘Where else do you get dialogue like this between a researcher and a practitioner?’ It’s exciting to see these different people learning from each other while trying to figure out what’s really going on. It’s the coolest thing ever! As I write this, I am reflecting on something I just posted on The Smokey Wire regarding how practitioners could help inform a new piece of research; you could say SAF helped me discover the theme of my forestry vocation.

I still volunteer with SAF because it’s stimulating to be around people of diverse ages, backgrounds, experiences, and ideas who are working in the field of forestry.  I like to think that, as a wise elder, I can be helpful to people today (while, of course, refraining from telling too many boring stories about the old days or people no one remembers). Another very important reason I choose SAF over other volunteer opportunities is the SAF staff. Any volunteer job is easy if you are working with people like SAF’s Policy & Public Affairs Director Danielle Watson, who, frankly, do much of the heavy lifting.  And that’s why, after all these years, I am still here.

We want to thank Sharon for her continued contributions to the field of forestry and the SAF community! To stay up to date on her work and all things forestry, follow The Smokey Wire, a forest policy website. You may also reach her directly by email at [email protected]. And if her work has inspired you to join one of SAF’s national advisory committees, don’t hesitate to reach out to the SAF Policy & Public Affairs team at any time to learn more.

To submit an SAF Member Spotlight, email [email protected]