Talking on the phone on break at an Elder symposium, Pinchot Partners’ Vice-chair John O’Brien noticed the smoky skies to the east. As a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and longtime Randle resident, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is home. What happens here matters.
“I’m a hunter-gatherer," he said. “My wife and I fish and hunt and gather medicine in the forest. It’s a great place to live.”
When his cousin, former Pinchot Partners’ chair Taylor Aalvik, started talking about the good work the group was doing, O’Brien asked how to learn more.
“He told me, ‘Here’s the next meeting. Start coming,’” O’Brien said, laughing.
At those first meetings, he didn’t understand much of what was talked about, he said, but he knew he wanted to be part of helping to “make good things happen in the forest.”
“I haven’t missed many meetings since.”
That was seven years ago.
The work, of course, comes with challenges, but he said the Pinchot Partners group is so diverse and the people intelligent and knowledgeable, “that there isn’t much we can’t accomplish together.”
He retired in 2015, after 40 years in the timber industry. He spends his time now on the Pinchot Partners’ board, as Chair of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe Cultural Resource Board, and maintaining 40 acres on the Cowlitz River.