Speaker Spotlight

Paul F. Hessburg, PhD

TedXBend | 05.10.17

1. This year’s theme is “US Humans” What do you immediately think of when you ponder US Humans?
If I interpret the question simply as “Us Humans”, with added emphasis, I think of a species that is unfathomably diverse, remarkable, and bewitching. If I interpret the question more narrowly, with a national branding, “US Humans”, we seem somewhat less remarkable, and fragmented right now. I think a lot about how we might go forward, so deeply divided.

2. Who has had the most significant influence on you in your adult life and why? 
There are too many to name. I am blessed to work and play with many deep and rich people, and they have each changed my life in some way.

3. What is it about your work that keeps you going?
I love being a part of the landscapes I study. The more I am there, the more my sense of wonder and connection increases.

4. What is your passion outside your idea worth spreading?
Playing in the landscapes I study. In my free time, I paddle and fly fish the rivers, snowshoe and hike the trails. For me, the wild rivers are some of the most untrammeled places left. I visit forests that have burned, or that we have intentionally burned, and watch them recover through their succession of birthdays. I love being—in the forest—and watching it being. It’s probably good I am forester…

5. Where’s the one place you’ve visited that you’ll never forget and why?
Probably the Frank Church and Bob Marshall Wildernesses. They are huge, wild, and we let natural processes mostly be, as they will be, in both places. They are a classroom for me. I go there to do field ecology and learn from the landscape. I see things every time I am there that I don’t understand and that I can’t explain. And that ratchets up my sense of wonder and my desire to keep learning.

6. Describe an unforgettable moment that shaped who you are.
My scoutmaster when I was a teenager took us to Isle Royal National Park for a 10 day backpacking trip. He had been a survival instructor for the Green Beret when he was a career soldier. He taught us their survival program. After we had passed the program, we put our new skills to work. We hiked the island end to end, and foraged for our food while we were there. I learned to overcome my fears that wolves wouldn’t eat me, that cold nights couldn’t freeze me, that I wouldn’t melt in a heavy downpour, and that I could stay alive in the woods, using my wits. That is when my love of forests began and they had become a place of safety and nourishment.

7. List three words that describe you.
Hopeful, passionate, searcher.

8. Are there any books that contributed to who you are? Is so, which one(s)?
There are many, but here are three: A Sand County Almanac, A River Runs Through It, and The Four Agreements

9. For your talk content, what’s recommended reading?
These are science articles, but I think they clearly make the case.

  1. Moritz, M.A., Batllori, E., Bradstock, R.A., Gill, A.M., Handmer, J., Hessburg, P.F., Leonard, J., McCaffrey, S., Odion, D.C., Schoennagel, T. and Syphard, A.D., 2014. Learning to coexist with wildfire. Nature, 515(7525), pp.58-66.
  2. Hessburg, P.F., Churchill, D.J., Larson, A.J., Haugo, R.D., Miller, C., Spies, T.A., North, M.P., Povak, N.A., Belote, R.T., Singleton, P.H. and Gaines, W.L., 2015. Restoring fire-prone Inland Pacific landscapes: seven core principles. Landscape Ecology, 30(10), pp.1805-1835.

10. Why do you want to speak at TEDxBend?
This has to be my favorite question of all. There are 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands in these 50 States. Most of them are in the western US and Alaska. These lands were set aside for all future generations of US citizens to have, play in, develop a sense of wonder about, enjoy, and steward. Public land management is the ultimate experiment in participatory government. And yet, so many of us do not participate. I want folks to understand what they are missing, how lucky and blessed we are to have this landscape, and to roll up their sleeves and get involved in how public lands and wildfire policy develops over the coming decades. OUR public lands and the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren is on the line.

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