President's Perspective - Summer 2021

By Jimi Scheid on Friday, July 2, 2021

WCISA President’s Message – Leaving An Inspired Legacy

The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future”. -Gifford Pinchot

What things do trees give us?  “Paper and shade.  Protection from the sun”. 

Why do you like trees?  “Because they have leaves and protect us from the sun”.

What do you think about living somewhere without trees?  “That would not be so fun at all.  Because I like more shade.  On hot days when I’m working out in the garden, I want a tree for shade.  Some squirrels make holes in trees that they live in and birds live in holes and bunnies go under the roots to live”. 

What do we get from a tree when it dies? “They put it into a paper factory, and they chip it really small and turn it into paper.  I think I might help trees grow and water them.  Trees are my favoritist thing that I really love, and my favorite creature is racoons”.

These are the words of a child.  The words of my oldest daughter, to be exact, not yet four years of age, when I asked her for her opinions of trees.  They are cute, humorous, as real as they come and, more than anything to me, a sign of future hope for those that value the connection so many of us strive daily to make between man and earth.

There are plenty of facets of my life that I find less than enviable or worth emulation.  .  Countless things I’ve said and done (and continue to) that I’d hate to see transferred in any way to my offspring.  Self-criticism aside, if there are nuggets to sift from my life experiences, one of them is my career in forestry and, by extension, urban forestry and arboriculture.  A grand opportunity that I’ve been given and, despite my failings at it, a treasure in my life that I’ve felt only more impassioned about as time has passed (and that’s coming from a long-standing government employee!).  Regardless of my shortcomings in this arena (and there’ve been a few), the priceless connection I’ve had to such a meaningful profession, with nearly limitless chances to succeed and, more importantly, positively contribute to it, has not been lost on me.  There are a multitude of ways to make a living out there.  A career where you can significantly affect the lives of trees and people alike, where you can thread the needle between natural resources and the communities that they support/support them, is a luxury that awaits far too few of us.  I’ll be the first to say that my outlook can be construed as a bit overly cynical at times (I prefer to call it “realism”).  That might be the New Yorker in me.  I’m also the first to identify, however, how blessed I am to work in the field that I do.  And for that, I would be exceedingly overjoyed if my children were, like their old man, able to recreate such happiness and a feeling of fortune in their own lives.

There are perhaps 4,000 or so of you reading this final missive of mine.  4,000 pairs of eyes, hearts, souls and minds taking it all in. More so, 4,000 of the most caring and determined professionals in the industry of arboriculture.  How’d I channel my inner Carnac the Magnificent to deduce that from behind the computer monitor you might ask?  Well, simply, because you’re members of the Western Chapter, which is the greatest group of tree care professionals in all of the ISA.  I say that only somewhat facetiously, but with a hell of a lot of confidence and pride having met many of you (but not as many as I like).  I plan to rectify that as soon as the cultural temperature cools, so to speak, and we can reengage, learn, and laugh together like old times.  While these forays into educational excellency are, of course, a degree self-serving, I am realizing how much added joy I get in seeing new faces at events like these.  New faces bringing about fresh ideas, intriguing talks, necessary perspectives, and, at its root, contributing to the advancement of the Chapter and its mission.

This take was most recently evidenced at our 87th Annual Conference & Trade Show broadcast from the interwebs.  From Obi Kaufmann to Timmy Womick and everyone in between, it’s hard to explain how uplifted I feel from the meaningful, at times, otherworldly, dialogue they engaged in during their presentations.  As President, I went into the conference with a lot riding on my mind, a lot of extracurricular leadership thoughts and preparation for my own virtual involvement at various segments throughout the 4-day event.  There was a lot of planning going into the endeavor for many months, and in fact years, that was now coming to fruition that I aspired to get right.  How would all of this planning come together after all of this time?  How would it all translate in a virtual medium given my theme and earliest intentions?  Would people still be attracted to this format after a year and a half in remote-learning mode?  Were the talks too far out?  Were the social events too abstract to pull off from afar?  Could I make a physical connection to the Lost Coast for those watching from home?  Was it too much or too little of what our membership and partners desired?  Could we navigate the conference platform for all its many intended purposes?  Would my internet feed crap the bed from whatever forested setting I chose to broadcast from?  As the conference got further into the groove, most of those fears quickly dissipated and, like the many of you that joined me, I became blissfully lost in programming that streamed before me.  To paraphrase Timothy Leary, I had “turned on and tuned in” but certainly not “dropped out”.

Not dropping out was a good thing, in its most literal sense, given my perch from the high climes of the Redwood Sky Walk at Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, CA (my old stomping grounds) during a cool and sunny day one of the conference proceedings.  A special shout out goes to Gretchen Ziegler and Jim Campbell-Spickler, staff at the zoo who, without ever meeting me before, arranged for my unfettered access to the newly opened marvel at the intersection of architecture and arboriculture from which to stream and moderate from.  To say that the canopy of the redwood forest was not the most surreal place to virtually learn from, or learn at all for that matter, would be hard for me to deny.  While having you all there with me, both at the Sky Walk and in Humboldt in general, was always the vision, and often disheartening to fall short of, I sincerely hope that you got to share in a piece of the magic of this special place every time the cameras, the content, and the exploration brought you there.  I certainly was glad to share this redesigned experience with you and, if the planets align, have not ruled out some sliver of the original dream coming true, down the road, for an in-person gathering there some day.  If you came away from this conference with anything, besides a bright, more informed outlook on the industry you serve, I hope its that there is an intrinsic link between us as humans and the natural world which surrounds us and quite often astounds us.  Places like the redwood forests of the Lost Coast, and so many other marvels within our domain, are to be experienced, first-hand, outdoors, up close and with reverence, with that joy and fascination conserved, exalted, and cherished with a rapt frequency and fervor.

As I look back at my term as Chapter President, I realize that my laundry list of aspirations did not come together exactly as hoped.  That blame can partly be placed on the pandemic I suppose.  Time is another culprit.  While I never imagined every hope I came into the year with would be realized within 365 days, I do feel a sense of accomplishment in what we have been able to achieve as it relates to my presidential goals, the last of which I’ll detail here.

Continuing to broaden collaboration with partners.  Stunted by the pandemic perhaps, our members and presenters continue to represent a diverse array of interests and pursuits. I look forward to emboldening relationships further at a grander scale with the ISA and our sister chapters, the Society of American Foresters, landscape architects, and a variety of other affiliated organizations and occupations.  Strategically, we are called to do so.

Sustaining financial & membership solvency and growth.  Despite what could have been a disastrous year in these areas, with the economic collapse of sorts that followed, I have been pleasantly fulfilled at our stats.  Chapter membership rates have stayed consistent over the last 12 months while, budgetarily, we found ourselves with a surplus this spring which was reallocated to our financial portfolio for investment in the market.  We are on track to finish this fiscal year under budget in large part due to revenue generated from virtual workshops and the large uptick in TRAQ course attendees.  As of the end of April, our net ordinary income was substantially ahead from the same time period a year prior, although there are time-dependent fluctuations in areas such as Annual Conference expenditures and revenue amongst other factors.  I thank you to those that have continued to support us in these arenas.

Seeking diverse representation on our board, committees and volunteer groups.  The evolution of our selfless servants continues to amaze me.  Be it the willing presenters and article contributors, committee chairs and their members, or the evolving Board of Directors, I feel confident in our future and how we look to broaden our horizons.  We have active participants from all of our four states, many professional disciplines, and skill sets.  Looking at the current seniority on the Board, my professional affiliation is with state government, my predecessor is a consultant, and my successor a long-time non-profit employee.  A variety of fields are represented with our Directors to additionally include municipal, marketing, and academic backgrounds, not to mention, for likely the first time, all four Directors are female. 

Looking at the array of our volunteer leaders and contributors, I’m especially inspired by the many youthful faces adding to our ranks.  When I joined the ISA in 2009 having just turned 26, I struggled to feel like my age demographic was represented when attending in-person events.  Now, 12 years later, I’m feeling more and more like an old man, and that’s a good thing!  Not unlike the long-term management of a forest, sustainability is key to the success of our organization and, thereby, our industry.  We need to continue reaching out to those who will replace us, to lift them up, to acknowledge their potential, to hone their skills and mentor the next generation of arborists, urban foresters and environmental stewards.  Successional planning must stay a priority, a concept that translates from forestry to those that have an affinity for it. 

Continuing to find avenues for up-and-coming professionals to contribute their diverse experiences to the shared advancement of our Chapter will only contribute to the greatest good.  That succession of leadership, the value of volunteering and the legacy created from fostering the Greatest Good philosophy should not be disregarded.  If you’ve heard any of my talks in the last year or so, you’ll recognize my routine extolling of this ethic and its author, Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the US Forest Service, creator of the Society of American Foresters and father of the American forestry conservation movement. Pinchot is quoted as saying “The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future”.   I would hope through our selfless service, looking past any differences, we would see the bigger picture, the greatest good, and work to ensure our legacy is one that can be lasting long after we’re gone.

In my final year on the WCISA Board, I will continue to move the needle and challenge our officers, members, and tree care professionals alike to heed the call to lead.  To get engaged.  To give back.  To seek out the next generation.  To stand up for best practice.  I know that the incoming leadership, with President Doug Wildman now wielding the gavel, will do great things and ensure the Chapter elevates itself. 

It has been a distinct pleasure to have served you as President in this outstanding organization.  Being a part of something this influential and important has been one of the greatest honors of my life.  To see my name inscribed along a pantheon of past presidents far more noteworthy than I is nothing short of humbling.  I will always look back fondly at the incredibly well-revered collection of professionals that comprise our organization and count myself blessed that so many of these individuals are those I can count as friends as well as colleagues.

I appreciate the support of so many of you that have contributed to the betterment of our profession and, in doing so, have molded me into a far better version of myself.  There are too many of you to list in these pages, but I hope you know who you are.  God’s providence has brought me to this point and, above all other earthly affairs, given me the superb little family that I do not deserve and my steadfastly supportive wife, Genevieve, the recipient of this year’s President’s Award.  If you haven’t yet, I hope you do some day meet my remarkable partner in this journey without whom my professional or personal goals would go unfulfilled.

As I disembark from this year-long electronic odyssey that has been my Chapter presidency, I encourage you all to strive to leave a legacy beyond yourselves.  If you recall my opening (also virtual) presidential remarks back at our annual business meeting in early July of 2020, I recommended those watching leave the legacy of a loved life.  That’s not just a cheeky alliteration but a call to action.  A year later, I feel the message still holds up.  What better way than to give freely of perhaps your two greatest assets: knowledge and passion for what it is you do?  Furthermore, if our recent history has encouraged us a step further, we need to share that with a healthy dose of humor to sometimes pull us through.

As you survey the proverbial landscape at the forest’s far reaches, what do you see?  Whose hands will it be entrusted to?  Who will be the next you?  Who will speak for trees?

To the Best Chapter of the ISA,

Now Go Outside!


Jimi Scheid, WCISA President 2020-2021