PORTLAND — As a lifelong hunter and fisherman, Joe Furia said he has always taken a keen interest in natural resources management.
“For me, natural resources and society are not isolated,” Furia said. “They’re completely interconnected.”
Furia took over earlier this month as the new executive director of the World Forestry Center in Portland, a 52-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forestry through educational programs.
A lawyer by trade, Furia, 41, previously worked five years as general counsel for The Freshwater Trust, a Portland-based conservation group focused on water quality and habitat projects. Furia graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2008, and has spent time at several other Portland law firms, including K&L Gates and Landye, Bennett, Blumstein LLP.
Before earning his law degree, Furia spent five years in Silicon Valley working for a tech startup, and later as business development manager for AFS Trinity Power, a hybrid vehicle company.
Jennifer Allen, associate professor at Portland State University and chairwoman of the World Forestry Center Board of Directors, said Furia’s experience has prepared him to reach out to all partners in forest management to address issues in federal regulation, conservation and industry practices.
“The board was united in our belief that he’s the best leader to take the World Forestry Center forward in a time when our forests are more important that ever,” Allen said in a statement.
Furia arrived at the center Sept. 1, and is already preparing to host the 14th annual “Who Will Own the Forest?” conference Sept. 25-27. More than 400 people are expected to attend the event, with presentations on a range of topics from markets for wood products to climate and carbon concerns. The World Forestry Center is near the Oregon Zoo in Washington Park, and includes the Discovery Museum.
Everyone can agree that healthy forests are good for business, good for the economy and good for nature, Furia said. He said forests are a key component of Northwest infrastructure — just as communities rely on roads and bridges for transportation, they also rely on the forests to provide clean air, clean water and rural timber jobs.
The World Forestry Center is unique in that it is a trusted convener on forestry issues, Furia said, with a rich Rolodex of the players involved in forest management.
“If you want to improve forest management, then you have to look at the science. But if you’re looking at a pace and scale that’s meaningful, you have to engage the larger (social and economic) drivers,” Furia said. “You cannot manage forests in a vacuum.”
Heath Curtiss, general counsel for the Oregon Forest & Industries Council, a trade organization that advocates for the timber industry, has known and worked with Furia stemming back to Furia’s time with The Freshwater Trust. Curtiss described Furia as a smart, high-caliber leader who will bring productive thinking to issues that affect the industry.
“I think that Joe is interested in hosting conversations around forestry and its role in our economy and, frankly, our society,” Curtiss said. “He has some interesting thoughts on that.”
Furia said he values integrity, trust and hard work as a manager, and those qualities will be essential to moving the ball forward on sustainable forestry into the future.
“If we don’t have healthy forests, healthy salmon runs and a community that values them, then we have lost something that is at the heart of being a Northwesterner,” Furia said.