35 Innovators Under 35: Meet Emily Platt
Emily Platt, former Executive Director of the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, cites a quiet source of inspiration for her desire to maintain and strengthen our Northwest forests.
“I grew up next to a huge lot containing about eighty to a hundred Douglas Fir trees,” Platt explains. “That absolutely helped develop a certain love for forests. I think it stems from that.”
Emily is currently earning a doctorate in Oregon State University’s Forest Ecosystems and Society program. She recently left the Task Force to develop a greater depth and perspective on her personal approach to current forestry practices.
“One of the biggest things I discovered while with the Task Force was the slow, bureaucratic pace at which change happens,” Platt says. “I believe that climate change and other issues will require different approaches within the Forest Service to protect native species.”
After graduating with a B.A. in English Literature from Gonzaga University, Emily remained in Spokane to volunteer and eventually work for GreenCorps, an organization that trains organizers for environmental campaigns. After her time with GreenCorps, Platt sought work that combined environmental conservation and social justice. This led her to the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, an organization that ‘supports the biological diversity and communities of the Northwest through conservation and restoration of forests, rivers, fish, and wildlife.’
“There is an endless logging and jobs versus the environment debate. We built a program that helped reach out to the community around the Gifford Pinchot forest,” she says of her eight years with the Task Force. “After working to create a diverse group of facts and figures, the Task Force made sure that every stakeholder had a piece of the debate. We made a difference---it didn’t seem like the Forest Service was changing anything on their own.”
During her tenure as Executive Director, Platt assisted in the development of a restoration plan for the Gifford Pinchot that can serve as a model for other Pacific Northwest national forests. The Task Force monitors timber sales throughout the region, played a major part in the removal of Hemlock Dam on Trout Creek and helped block a proposal for a 3,000 acre copper mine near Mt. St. Helens.
With her accomplishments and experiences to reflect upon, Emily offers encouraging advice for engaging the next generation of leaders to take interest in forests advocacy:
“I think it is important to connect with young people where they are, with the issues they think are important,” Platt says, offering the social networking site Facebook as a valuable tool in this regard. “We need to get them out in nature, experiencing our natural areas and forests—while also bringing these issues into the classroom with environmentally-focused coursework.