April 12, 2023

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

Law student groups host timber exec and Native American forest management director to discuss forest management perspectives.

This spring, student groups and a law center hosted two leaders in Northwest forest management to discuss the challenges faced by catastrophic wildfires and their perspectives on key fire prevention strategies. The event was an opportunity for Lewis & Clark students to hear from resource users, who are often on the opposite side of environmental conflicts.

Tim Vredenburg, Director of Forest Management for the Cow Creek band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians described indigenous practices employed by one of the Northwest’s leading tribes. Dan Tomasheki, Vice President of Resources for Sierra Pacific Industries explained the technology and strategies employed by timber companies to reduce wildfire risks.

The event was hosted by the Natural Resources Law Association (NRLA), the Native American Law Society (NALSA), and the Western Resources Law Center (WRLC).

Adjunct professors Susan Jane Brown and Caroline Lobdell worked with the student groups on this event. “While two lawyers may oppose each other sometimes in the courtroom,” said Lobdell, “there is a shared dedication to providing students opportunities to hear different perspectives and model civil discourse.”

Brown added that “it is essential for law students to hear from those who regulate and those who are regulated. Fostering a comprehensive understanding of the sociopolitical and economic environment in which environmental law is practiced is what law school should be about, and that includes providing opportunities for different perspectives to be voiced and respectfully discussed in an academic setting.”

One of the students attending the program was Emily Struzenberg ’24. “Climate change is wreaking havoc on the forest fire cycle. Fire doesn’t discriminate based on industry or affiliation and so it’s important to engage all stakeholders to help solve ever-increasing and severe fire problems. That being said, not all fire is bad fire.

She added, “Tribes in the Northwest, including the Cow Creek Tribe of Umpqua Indians, are leading efforts to reintroduce ceremonial burns. Tim Vrendenberg, the resource manager for the Tribe, talked about how he was motivated to protect the Cow Creek homelands and sacred spaces from fire, but the Cow Creek view fire as a part, not a threat to the ecosystem. This dichotomy enlightened me to how fire-phobic we have become.”