This week’s It’s Hot Out There segment features an exclusive interview with Wallowa Resources Executive Director Nils Christoffersen. Our guest visited the School of Natural Resources and Environment for the Wyss Speaker Series to share his experiences with community based conservation in the American West. Nils shared the Bundy militia standoff in Oregon as an example of how these conflicts represent the broader tensions between conservation and communities in the West. Wallowa Resources has been working to provide communities with an alternative process for community-based management that helps overcome these conflicts. With the final militia men turning themselves in on February 11th, this interview comes at an extremely relevant time.
Our guest gives invaluable insight on the problems that led to these protests; however, he did discuss how they could have been handled better by both sides. He gave instances of how his organization has been working to educate, protect, and provide alternatives to help the community of Wallowa County, Oregon be resilient with a changing natural and political environment. While explaining his work, Nils also explains the need for our assessment of how to help communities who will suffer from immense economic changes, specifically citing the people of the Appalachian Mountains who will be harmed by the move towards renewables. He attributed his skills in working with local people to the time he spent in Southern Africa working with the IUCN, and explains the need for relationships between conservation agencies and local communities. These skills are evident, as he has had great success and found immense enjoyment while working in Oregon; although, he is not originally from there. To hear more in-depth coverage of these issues, watch the video above, and be sure to listen to our shows on conservation!