23 Oct And So It Begins
As the Public Affairs RA with the National Forest Service in North Carolina, I have the opportunity to blend my passion for the outdoors and communications. In just one month, I’ve had the privilege of going on various site visits, gaining a deeper understanding of the Forest Service’s multifaceted mission. Public Affairs may often be overlooked, but it’s significance cannot be understated. The Forest Service functions to service its communities and land through research, policy, education, recreation, conservation, land management, and so many others. All of which, is dependent on the support and acceptance of the people who inhabit and frequent our forests. Public affairs acts as the vital bridge the connects communities with the people who live near and visit or forests.
Public affairs plays a crucial role in building and sustaining partnerships with government officials, community leaders, and conservation organizations. A prime example of this is an opportunity I had to join a North Carolina Congressman on a hike through Joyce Kilmer, home to 400-year-old poplar trees. This experience provided insight into the political press-related aspects of the Forest Service’s operations and highlighted the importance of fostering positive relationships with key decision makers.
Effective public affairs communicates certain environmental initiatives and the reasoning behind these policy decisions. For instance, I was invited to accompany some botanists and fellow RA, Natalia Herrera Biltman, on a ginseng survey to monitor plant growth in our forest. Subsequently, I created content that explained the decision to halt permits and emphasized the importance of protecting this particular plant species. Proactive, transparent, and informative communication helps to address misunderstandings and garner support.
Education is a powerful tool in shaping public perception and behaviors towards forest conservation. My time spent with the Pisgah River Rangers, documenting their guided tour and river snorkel exploration, was a testament to the positive impact of environmental education. Witnessing the elusive Hellbender Salamander, also known as a “Lasagna Lizard”, was a surreal experience and underscored the importance of preserving and protecting these delicate ecosystems.
I’m so grateful to be working with a team of dedicated and supportive individuals and I look forward to what the next 8 months has in store. Stay tuned for more NFNC Facebook content!