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Featured Professional: Carol Ann Wassmuth, A Written Statement of Values

A Written Statement of Values

CarolAnn Wassmuth, Monastery of St. Gertrude
Cottonwood, Idaho

The increasing number of attendees at landowner conferences and field days is a positive indication that forest owners are taking seriously their responsibility to be wise stewards of their woodlands. They come eager to learn from the professionals what the latest science is telling them they need to do to maintain the health and productivity of their forests. They leave with new ideas on how best to interact with the ecosystem present on their property for the benefit of all its inhabitants. Good forest management depends upon knowing and implementing these “whats” and “hows”.

I would like to suggest that we also consider the “whys”. This means reflecting upon and articulating your values as they pertain to the ownership of land. Since these are your personal convictions, no one else can do it for you. To put these deeply held beliefs into words may be a challenge but well worth the effort especially if you are sharing ownership with others, e.g. spouse, siblings, children, business partners. The final statement must be acceptable to everyone involved.

What is the advantage of having a written statement of your values as a landowner? It will help you maintain integrity as you manage your land. These personal values are the reason behind the objectives you list in your management plan. Consultants and contractors would know exactly what you believe about your responsibility in regard to this forestland and would be clear on how you expect them to carry out the duties for which you have hired them. A common statement of purpose provides a foundation for discussion of land use among co-owners. As land is passed on to another generation there would be no doubt as to your convictions.

Fifteen years ago the Sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude undertook the process of putting into words what we believed concerning our ownership of land. It was a time consuming process since there were 90 members in the community and we couldn’t quit until everyone was willing to personally own the statement. We titled the finished document our “Philosophy of Land Use”. In it we expressed our understanding that land was both a resource and a responsibility. We recognized our close connection as a community to this particular acreage and made a commitment to treat it with reverence and care. We identified how caring for this land and sharing it with guests and retreatants was a core ministry of ours. The statement has become our guiding document as we make decisions concerning our interaction with the land.

Because we are a religious community of women we used faith words to express our convictions. As you compose your statement of values the important thing is that you use the words that best say what it is you believe. It may involve serious conversation with others who share the responsibility of ownership and, consequently, takes time and energy. Both the process of composing the statement and the final document are important as you continue in your commitment to wise forest management.

Sister Carol Ann Wassmuth

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