By Scott Steen, CEO
The legacies of organizations and movements are really the legacies of individuals who act for the greater good. American Forests’ legacy over the past few decades has been shaped in no small part by Zane Smith, who stepped down in May after nearly a quarter century of service as an American Forests field representative.
Officially, Zane has represented American Forests in the Pacific Northwest since 1988, but his impact has extended far beyond the region. Zane has been the backbone of our field rep program, speaking countless times on our behalf, contributing to this magazine, building relationships with policymakers and partner organizations, serving on panels and committees, answering questions about forests from the public and acting as a mentor and advisor for many in the organization. Perhaps most impressively, Zane did all of this as a volunteer, contributing his time, expertise and passion to support a cause in which he deeply believes.
Zane was particularly instrumental in several of American Forests’ international initiatives, chief among them our Trees for Tigers program. The program was a hands-on effort to restore habitat for Siberian tigers, the largest and most endangered cat in the world. Only 350-400 of these majestic animals are believed to still exist in the wild. Before work could commence, Zane spent long months in consultation with our partners on the project: the Far Eastern Branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Department of Forestry. As a result, suitable planting sites were identified and prepared, and hundreds of thousands of seedlings were grown to restore tiger habitat that had been rapidly disappearing. In the end, 300,000 Korean pines were planted in four areaswhere Siberian tigers had been located.
In Zane’s case, being a volunteer is not the same thing as being an amateur. His 34-year career with the U.S. Forest Service included assignments as the Willamette National Forest supervisor in Eugene, Oregon; national director of recreation and wilderness; and regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region, covering California, Hawaii and Micronesia. He retired from the Forest Service in 1988 and served as vice president of Ecologically Sustainable Development, Inc., working in Russia, Mongolia, China and South America. He also served for nine years as a member of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
While I have only known Zane for about 18 months, I quickly learned to take his views of our work seriously. If Zane had concerns about something we were doing, I would receive unfailingly polite emails that clearly laid out his position and concerns. While they didn’t always change our course of action, these emails prodded me to ask more questions and carefully consider our rationale. Far more often, I received emails from Zane complimenting the staff or some new initiative or action. As a CEO new to American Forests, this support from a longtime and respected member of our community was both gratifying and helpful to us as we charted a new course for the organization.
I have come to admire Zane for many reasons: his intelligence, his deep knowledge of forest issues, his conviction, his supportiveness, his willingness to say what he thinks. But most of all, I admire his deep sense of service.
The success of organizations like ours is built on the willingness of people to contribute their expertise, time, resources and passion to advance the common good. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to find the right match between an organization’s needs and a volunteer’s particular expertise and passion. Sometimes the needs match, but the timing isn’t quite right. But, when the two things align, wonderful things can happen.
So from all of us at American Forests, I would like to say, thanks Zane. Your service to American Forests truly made a difference.