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Photography Fellowship Concludes with Exhibition
Oct 25 2011
IYOF Photojournalist Encounters, Captures Wildfires, Pine Beetles, Tornado Damage, and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
WASHINGTON - Two of the foremost non-profits in the US that promote sustainable forestry practices co-sponsored a ten-week photography fellowship, which concluded this month. The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the National Network of Forestry Practitioners (NNFP) created, coordinated and sponsored the fellowship to articulate, through images, the importance of trees and forests to people. The same message is simultaneously being echoed by other US organizations and worldwide as part of the 2011 International Year of Forests (IYOF), which was established by the United Nations.
The NASF and NNFP co-sponsored photography fellowship is, to date, the most extensive component of the US celebration of IYOF. The images captured as a result of the photography fellowship tell the story of individuals and organizations working to sustain our nation’s forest resources. Collectively, the photographs display how the health of our forests is consequential: healthy forests create vibrant ecosystems, lifestyles and economies.
The photography fellowship was awarded in July 2011 to Josh Birnbaum, an Ohio University photojournalism graduate with a background in rocket science. Birnbaum’s scientific knowledge enhanced his ability to capture and tell the nuanced stories of current preservation practices. Over the course of the fellowship Birnbaum captured between 35,000 - 50,000 photographs.
A dozen state forest agencies submitted proposals petitioning for a visit by the photography fellow. Each proposal detailed various efforts at the state and local levels to reverse tree loss, current research projects and education programs. Six states were selected through the process, in turn defining Birnbaum’s ten-week itinerary. Each stop included time for Birnbaum to photograph and meet with local experts and residents.
The six stops on the fellowship route began with a visit to the University of West Virginia. There, Birnbaum documented the lab where research shows new hybrid varieties of the American chestnut may save the tree species from the effects of a destructive blight fungus and possible extinction. Also in West Virginia Birnbaum toured several former coal mine sites that are in the process of growing back to their natural state – with the help of area foresters.
The second stop was in Texas, where Birnbaum photographed youth from urban settings and from the Alabama-Coushatta reservation at a summer camp, the Latino Legacy Youth in Nature Leadership Challenge. While in Texas, Birnbaum also toured lingering damage around the Galveston area from Hurricane Ike, as well as destruction caused by wildfires near the Angelina National Forest in Kountze, Texas.
His documentation of the dichotomous give and take of Mother Nature continued on the third portion of his trip: Joplin, Missouri. There, Birnbaum spent time among residents working to piece together their lives and landscape in the aftermath of the May tornado. Birnbaum photographed the US Forest Service training of an Urban Forest Strike Team, a disaster response group equipped to assess and manage storm damaged trees.
In South Dakota, Birnbaum confronted a small but deadly predator in our nation’s forests: the mountain pine beetle. Eight percent of forested land and trees in the contiguous 48 states have been killed or de-foiled as a result of insect infestation since 2003. (Source: 2010 National Report on Sustainable Forests). In South Dakota, the rate of infestation is particularly high as a result of the mountain pine beetle. Birnbaum met with and documented area residents working to find innovative ways to mitigate the insect’s impact on their region.
In Montana, Birnbaum captured the ravages of wildfire where land festered under destructive flames. He also documented residents including firefighters, loggers, saw mill owners and environmental action agencieswho collaborate in the name of preserving their state’s vital green resources. The intertwined relationship between the local economy and the environment was captured in Birnbaum’s images of trust lands. Montana trust lands are unique assets that provide a community with financial perks, supporting vital services such as schools, while considering environmental factors and protecting the future income-generating capacity of the land.
The last leg of Birnbaum’s journey was in Maryland where watershed forestry offers unique protection to the population and wildlife. Plantings managed by county officials and local residents sustain a buffer zone that assists in moderating the ebb and flow of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. He also met families participating in the Maryland Forest Service’s Woods in Your Backyard program who are opting for healthy forests on their property rather than expanses of lawn.
The collective works from the co-sponsored IYOF photography fellowship will be displayed in a handful of exhibits. The complete selected works will be displayed at a juried exhibition in the photographer’s hometown of Athens, Ohio. The Ohio show will take place at the Dairy Barn Arts Center (dairybarn.org). Additionally, a portion of the exhibit was shown at a recent National Association of State Foresters (NASF) conference, as well as the Society of American Foresters (SAF) national conference. Collectively, Birnbaum’s trip included meetings with researchers, professors, graduate students, foresters, landowners and individuals in the wood products industry as well as everyday Americans – all individuals who “Celebrate Forests” within our borders.
About the National Association of State Foresters
The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) is a non-profit organization representing the directors of forestry agencies in the states, territories and the District of Columbia of the United States. NASF promotes programs and activities that advance the practice of sustainable forestry, the conservation and protection of forestlands and associated resources and the establishment and protection of forests in the urban environment. For more information, visit www.stateforesters.org.
About National Network of Forest Practitioners
The National Network of Forest Practitioners (NNFP) is a national non-profit that promotes the mutual well being of workers, rural communities, and forests by supporting individuals and groups that build sustainable relationships between forests and people. NNFP supports rural communities by working to establish meaningful jobs, and in turn healthy economies, that are rooted in sustainable practice. For more information, visit www.nnfp.org.
About the International Year of Forests
This international yearlong celebration will focus on the people’s actions to sustainably manage the world’s trees and forests. Through a resolution passed on December 20, 2006, the United Nations outlined its objectives for the Year which include: to reverse the loss of forest cover, enhance economic, social and environmental benefits, increase the area of sustainably managed forests and to mobilize increased financial resources.
Within the United States, including its eight territories and the District of Columbia, the campaign will be celebrated on the national, regional, local and personal levels. Using the tagline, “Celebrate Forests. Celebrate Life.” the campaign speaks to the importance of trees and forests to people and the connection between U.S. forests and a healthy environment, lifestyle and economy. The connection will be communicated through four major themes: clean air and water, ecosystem health, economic health and community and personal health.
Specific goals of the national program include: raise awareness of sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests; elevate the conversation around sustainable forestry; encourage the adoption of the idea that there is a significant value, benefit and importance of sustainable forestry in the U.S.; and establish a new policy regarding forestry in America.