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FEWL-ing the Fire: School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences students of forestry gain new insights into policy making on Capitol Hill

Auburn University forestry students Jace McCauley and Bobby Sitze recently represented the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at the Forest Landowners Association Public Policy Institution meeting in Washington D.C. where they were able to witness the legislative process first-hand.

McCauley and Sitze were chosen to represent the school because of their exemplary leadership skills as members of the Forest, Environment, and Wildlife Leadership, or FEWL, Academy, a personal development program that is co-instructed by Dean Alavalapati and Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor Adam Maggard.

Dean Alavalapati was proud to have the students represent both the school and the FEWL Academy at the meeting.

“With this opportunity, Jace and Bobby were able to witness the development of real-world solutions and apply the policy knowledge they have gained as students of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to the process,” Alavalapati said.

“Their presence at this meeting is significant to their future in the industry and their growth as leaders because of the connections they were able to make with a wide range of forestry and government professionals.”

Attendees of the meeting included 37 members of Congress, namely senators Doug Jones and Richard Shelby and Alabama Rep. Gary Palmer, as well as representatives from federal agencies, government organizations, NGOs and private industries.

Significant issues such as casualty loss of timber, at-risk species, carbon and climate policy, and syndicated conservation easements were discussed.

Both students have taken classes on environmental policy, but felt that this experience gave them a broader understanding of its influence.  McCauley and Sitze gained new insights into policy and forest landownership with their attendance at the meeting and their visits to four offices where they met with two Congressmen and two staff members.

Sitze, a junior of forestry, was excited to see how the legislative process will affect his career.

“It’s eye-opening to see how these policies are impacting what I, as a future land manager, might be doing in the woods for a landowner,” said Sitze when addressing the Board of Directors.

“Policy affects everyone in the field, from land organizations to land owners to timber mills, and with this opportunity to see all of these entities working together, I was able to fully understand the significance of this process.”

McCauley, a senior of Forestry, was grateful to be able to see the inner workings of policy and thanked the board for their continued efforts.

“The big takeaway I had is that we can manage the woods to the best of our abilities and create wonderful plantations and habitats for wildlife and one thing in D.C. can discount that work so quickly. Thank you for all that you do in fighting for these policies that affect us.”

He also spoke on the opportunities that lie within policy making.

“I plan to be a land manager with my own consulting business and network of clients. With that experience and connection with constituents, I could potentially aid this process by starting conversations with state government to address their concerns,” said McCauley.

Both McCauley and Sitze were thankful to have the chance to engage in the policy-making process and hope that the nomination of student attendees continues as the Forest Landowners Association expands the meeting into an annual event.

(Written by Avanelle Elmore)

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