“Since its founding our School has sent young leaders to the American West who are committed to responsible conservation and to finding innovative solutions to the region’s evolving resource challenges.”
— Indy Burke, F&ES dean
Collaboration with community stakeholders is required to tackle these threats, Singer says. And he’s done just that. As state ecological coordinator with the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming, he united stakeholders and facilitated collaboration between nonprofit organizations and the federal government. In the coming years he aims to bring together an even wider group of stakeholders — including government officials, private landowners, forestry professionals, and advocates — to promote collaboration on forest and land use policy.
“My experience in Western communities will inform my career crafting consensus-driven land management policy to increase landscape and community resiliency,” he said. “As a forester or land manager, I could manage thousands of acres, but as an orchestrator of collaborative policy, I will influence society, land managers, and landscape-scale decisions over millions of acres.”
Ben Williamson, also a first-year student at F&ES, grew up in Colorado, where he says his parents were “lured by a sense of individualism and communion with wild spaces” — an ethos, he says, that shaped his own life. But as he watched rural communities transform into suburban sprawl during his youth —with fracking rigs and golf courses replacing pasture and open space — he came to see that these very values were under threat.
After moving to Montana for college, he discovered communities living “within” the land, and became committed to “fostering rural culture alongside ecosystems in pursuit of landscape connectivity.” As a student at the University of Montana, he did field work in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council on livestock-predator conflict mitigation policy. More recently he directed an outdoor education center in the Flathead River valley.
“I made my journey from Colorado to Montana seeking the preservation of a set of values that I felt were under threat,” he said. “But I see now that a firm sense and commitment to place is what’s needed to embody these values. In the critical juncture of which we live, there is no place left to run.”
Since 2006, The Wyss Foundation has provided scholarship funding and post-graduate fellowships to 31 master’s students.
Previous Wyss Scholars from F&ES include Mikailah McKee ’13 M.F., who is now the stewardship director at the Western Rivers Conservancy; Hanna Mershman ’14 M.F., the timber sale administrator for the U.S. Forest Service in Williamette National Forest; and Ben Hayes ’15 M.F., the working lands project director at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.
Lifson, Singer, and Williamson join current Wyss Scholars on campus, Katherine Panek ’18 M.E.M. and Austin Rempel ’18 M.E.M.