Volunteer Days: Hiking for Sustainablity and Perspective

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Hiking among Western Red Cedar trees

Consultants at DockYard are given three days a year to volunteer for any cause that inspires them. This provides the opportunity to take a break and give back, both of which can offer a fresh perspective on work and life. As someone who loves to hike and be in the outdoors, I used my time to volunteer with Adventure Scientists. Adventure Scientists is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that equips partners with data collected from the outdoors that is crucial to addressing environmental and human health challenges.

Timber Tracking

This year Adventure Scientists were looking for volunteers to collect tree samples from Western Red Cedar trees while hiking in regions of western Oregon. Being located in Portland, OR, created the perfect opportunity for me to collect these samples. There are thousands of these trees within an easy drive. The collection of leaf, seed, and wood samples from these trees will help to create a database of chemical and genetic signatures of tree species throughout the area. This information will be used to reveal the origin of any sample of Western Red Cedar timber — track movement through supply chains, help enforce anti-poaching regulations, create responsible buyers, improve sustainable resource management, and help the U.S. Forest Service plan for the impacts of a changing climate.

Illegal timber poaching? Yes, it’s a thing; and a really big thing in the Pacific Northwest. Old growth trees, like the Western Red Cedar, are prime targets for poachers. It’s estimated that one massive cedar can be worth around $20,000, and cutting one down can be low risk for thieves due to how remote some areas are. You can find more about the timber tracking project and timber poaching at Adventure Scientists.

The Added Benefits

Hiking also provides a refresh, and being able to take time off and give something back while doing it is a great opportunity. Being in nature clears my mind and forces me to be present in the moment. There are many other benefits to being in nature: Florence Williams explains a lot of these in her wonderful book Nature Fix. The woods also offer a sense of inspiration and being a small piece of something larger; it’s a humbling place. That humility and inspiration make me want to do something to help preserve these important natural areas.