Posted: November 23, 2021

As demonstrated by decades of cheesy, yet heartwarmingly predictable movies, the holiday season is about the time spent with those we love.

Clark Griswold and family in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Photo Copyright: 2012 Getty Images

Clark Griswold and family in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Photo Copyright: 2012 Getty Images

George Bailey had to learn the hard way, with some guardian guidance, about the most precious things in life – his family, community, and the legacy he’d leave behind. It took a decoration debacle, fire, kidnapping, and more for Clark Griswold to see that family is greater than money or things. And in the end, it was the sense of community that made the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes that day. The last two years have created their own storyline to remind us of the value of being together – this season may be the first time in a long time that many of us can gather with those who we love. Such gathering, rooted in joy, creates an incredible opportunity to reflect together on the value of something else held in precious regard: our forestland. 

Though we may not often think about it in this way, our forests are central components of our lives and histories. For some, the land has been the home to their family for generations; the setting for a long line of familial narrative, the place where lives came and went, where children grew up, a home where the trees’ roots aren’t the only ones that run deep. For others, the forests have been the places where tremendous time has been spent doing what they love with people they love; teaching children to hunt, enjoying a quiet walk with a partner, or working hard to learn the names of the birds and plants that inhabit the forest. Borne out of these stories and practices are the values that we hold for our forests. Our values are the things that we love and cherish about our forests or that are important to us in relation to our forests. These values are the foundation for the interaction we have with the land and shape how we care for it. Therefore, if we seek to care for the land and manage our forests well such that we and the next generation can enjoy the things that we love about them, we must uncover, understand, and define our forest values.

On its face, defining our values can seem rather easy, yet very abstract. We can say, “I value wildlife,” but what does that really mean? Do I value wildlife because I love to watch birds or because I love to hunt small game? Or do I have a desire to create a space where wildlife, especially threatened species, can inhabit? Or do I care about all these things? Defining our values is a bit more complex than knowing what we care about; it is about knowing why we care. To get at the heart of that “why,” we can return to our stories, memories, and histories. Think of one or two favorite memories you have made in your forest or, if you own land for the first time, think of memories you hope to make. Remind yourself of the story of those memories and reflect on how that story has shaped the way you see your forest now or the way you want to spend time with it. Perhaps, as a child, you used to walk the property’s trails with your grandma, and those fond memories create a desire within you to maintain those trails so you can walk them with your own grandkids. Perhaps your uncle taught you to hunt on his property and it has been significant to who you are today, so on your own property you want to offer the same experience to your children. Perhaps you have always loved the natural world and it feels deeply right to care for the forest’s health and vitality so it can live on into the future. Whatever it may be that you love, care for, hope to develop, or nourish within your forest, there is a deeper, more personal “why” behind it. Identifying that value requires uncovering the “whys.”

So what do our values and the “whys” behind them have to do with our time with loved ones and cheesy holiday movies? Recall that all those cheesy movies were about the importance of doing life with family and friends, and the legacies we leave behind. The central theme is not so different when caring for our forests: in attending to our forest values and creating our legacy, it is important to do so alongside those we love. Consider, then, that this holiday season may be a time to sit together and share or work to co-create your values. If you own land in partnership with family or friends, exchange stories and hopes, listen to each other’s memories or perspectives, and work together to create a list of all involved parties’ values so that in future management endeavors, everyone’s “whys” are considered. Take the time to share your favorite stories of the land and ask your friends and family to share theirs with you. By doing these things, defining your values together, you will not only be spending time reflecting on precious memories, but also preparing a rock-solid foundation for future endeavors taken in the care of the forest. You can navigate from this season and into the new year prepared to take action: develop a forest management plan rooted in collective values, reach out to a natural resources professional and share with them the values that you and your loved ones have defined together so they can provide appropriate forest management guidance, and help envision the future for your land towards which to work. Regardless of what you choose to do, your values are at the core, and taking time now to reflect on them with those you hold dear is a vital step in the care of your forest.

As we begin the holiday season, we wish you good health and so much joy as you gather and share your time, stories, memories – and maybe a moose-head mug of eggnog – with those you love.

Written by Abby Jamison, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests
Email: alj191@psu.edu
Phone: 814-867-5982

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802