GROWING UP in Southern California, from an early age, Ara Erickson’s roots were tied to nature.
“Some of my strongest memories are of climbing through tree branches and playing on swing sets under trees,” Erickson says. “In the heat of Southern California, the shade of a tree is really important.”
But, it wasn’t just her early connection to nature that drove her desire to help protect the environ- ment. Erickson grew up in a family that understood and appreciated that humans and nature must coexist in a mutually beneficial way.
“I had an essence instilled in me at a young age of the importance of both wild and managed parts of nature,” she says. “That has always been a strong part of the core of who I am.”
Erickson’s childhood and upbringing influenced her decision to study the disciplines of forestry and resource management in college, where she was drawn to the complexity of under- standing that humans must live on this planet and rely on its resources but still respect those resources.
In a world that looks for black and white solutions, Erickson, who serves as the director for Weyerhaeuser’s corporate sustainability program, now finds herself professionally pursuing those grey areas. In fact, aligning with an organization willing to also grapple with that complexity is why she got involved personally with American Forests.
“It’s rare to find an organization who can live the mantra that ‘all forests can provide some type of benefit, but not all forests provide the same benefit’,” she says. “Organizations that can take that message to the masses are really important.”
In July, Erickson joined American Forests’ Board of Directors to help tackle the biggest challenges facing our forests.
“I cannot think of another organization that has both the internal intellectual capacity and such alignment with the mission to make sure there are forests forever, for a lot of different people, types of communities and types of needs,” Erickson says. “It’s an organization that spans everything from urban trees — and things like tree equity to ensure that people have access to urban forests wherever they live and whoever they are — all the way to more wild landscapes where restoration and reforestation really need to take place. Being able to work with an organization that spans that whole spectrum, and is willing to tackle some of those really tough grey zones, is why I’ve been inspired by American Forests. I am thrilled to be working alongside the organization.”