STAFF HIGHLIGHT Q&A: JULIANA BIRKHOFF, MANAGING FACILITATOR
Collaboration is often crucial in addressing complex challenges. What drew you to this work?
I have always been interested in peace and conflict resolution. I studied peace and conflict resolution for my undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. I am particularly interested in situations which include different perspectives on risk, and too much scientific and technical information with policy leaders.
Can you describe your role and experience working in Forest and Fire resilience?
I began working on forest and fire issues in 2000 in Alabama. The Bankhead National Forest was at odds with environmental groups who sued the Forest over differing forest management plans. I was fascinated by the different ideas of an ‘ideal forest’ and how to achieve competing objectives with the forest planning rules.
I have subsequently worked on forest conflicts in Maritime Canada and in the Sierra National Forest.
What are some of the key challenges you’ve encountered when it comes to managing and enhancing forest and fire resilience? How do you approach over coming these challenges?
- Working within State or National environmental planning processes
- Profoundly different perspectives on what is “natural” and “beautiful” and what rights different groups have in the management of and access to forest lands
- Resources to plan and implement projects before catastrophic fire and subsequent landslides
- Land use policies and plans that encourage people to move into forest lands which significantly increases risk to humans
Forest and fire resilience plans and projects must be planned with all affected stakeholders. Developing a collaborative project can be slow, but it is better than a project which stakeholders do not approve and ends up in years of appeals and litigation.
Could you share a specific example of an innovative approach or project you’ve been involved in?
The Dinkey Collaborative has worked for 15 years to prioritize important Sierra National Forest lands for restoration. The Collaborative developed guidance to identify ladder fuels and guidance for fisher and spotted owl habitats. They also developed reforestation guidelines to reduce but still permit herbicide and lay out guidelines to prevent plantations in reforestation.
Now Switching gears, could you tell me about a moment where you felt you best represented the Ag Innovations mission?
- Ag Innovations facilitates collaboration among diverse groups to develop holistic solutions to California’s most complex agricultural, natural resource, and environmental challenges.Ag Innovations developed a comprehensive environmental justice approach and strategies for EJ outreach in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta. Many EJ leaders praised our strategy and recommended it to other State Agencies.
And for the final question, what is one thing outside of work that brings your joy?
Thankfully, there is more than one thing that brings me joy, I love spending time with my husband and my dogs. I love the challenge of rescuing dogs and finding them new homes.