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Cindy Miner Oral History Interview

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Cindy Miner Oral History Interview


Cindy Miner had the bulk of her 35-year career with the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the Forest Service, rising to the positon of Assistant Director for Communications and Applications. During the Forest Ecosystem Management and Assessment Team (FEMAT) process, which set the framework for the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), she participated in the social science team. Miner begins the interview outlining her career from a forester position on the Green Mountain National Forest in New England and sharing her forestry skills in the Peace Corps in Ecuador before moving to Oregon. She describes growing up in Minnesota in a family highly engaged with the outdoors, including a grandmother who was president of the Izaak Walton League, giving her a can-do women’s role model. She grew up hearing family stories about logging in northern Minnesota; her great grandparents were part of the logging of the upper Midwest, and then her grandparents we active in conservation. At age 19 she worked on the Colville National Forest doing stand exams and prescribed fire. She also recounts following the debates about wolf reintroduction in Minnesota.

Miner speaks at length about working her way through nursing training and work to a degree in forestry and getting work with the Forest Service, but having to repeated prove herself – as a woman – in order to get full access to work opportunities, especially on fire crews where the macho culture was deeply rooted. She describes having a sense of the battle over clearcutting that was going on at that time. After graduation in 1978 she worked as a forester for several years in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where she encountered more opportunities to prove herself. She and other women experienced many cases of gender bias, but she “toughed it out.” She did a masters degree in journalism and communications at the University of Minnesota as a “gender-okay” backup, and she describes how that exposed her to literary and legal dimensions of sexual harassment, which brought back suppressed memories and feelings from her earlier experience in the Forest Service. After some employment with Forest Service Research she resigned and took a Peace Corps positon in Ecuador in the early 1980s, where she met her husband, a forester from the Pacific Northwest.

Miner describes her path into the Pacific Northwest Research Station, how editing publications quickly gave her access to many Station scientists, including Jack Ward Thomas early on, and her attraction to technology transfer as a communications specialty, which would be the focus for the rest of her career. The conversation then turns to comparisons of forests and forestry in the upper Midwest, Vermont, and the Pacific Northwest in terms of the size, age, and value of trees, connections with local communities, and other factors. She goes on to talk about the 1980s in terms of the emerging split between people in the agency and larger communities with more utilitarian vs. environmental values and how that played out as the agency hired more ‘-ologists’ and environmental federal legislation kicked in. She describes emotional reactions of sadness and worry as the Forest Wars heated up in the late 1980s, and then FEMAT occurred in 1993. She recounts watching the build up with things like Judge Dwyer’s injunction of federal forestry, but that she wasn’t involved directly until the Station ramped up to prepare for President Clinton’s Forest Summit, which she did not attend but watched on TV. She notes that she worked in the social science part of FEMAT and that she was pregnant at the time, and had her first child just na month after completion of FEMAT.

Miner elaborates on key personalities, especially Jack Ward Thomas and Jerry Franklin, and their roles in managing the large group of scientists in FEMAT who represented may disciplines, so there were clashes of world views taking place in the mammoth project to create a conservation strategy for such a big area. She describes the sometimes-conflicted interactions among social and biophysical scientists, but also the magnitude and significance of the collective effort that brought them together. The absence of National Forest System people in FEMAT is an important issue to her the appears periodically in the interview, especially in relation to implementing Option 9, the selected plan. She addresses social issues involved in the plan, including the limited timber cut, extensive reserves, lack of attention to climate change, social acceptability, the challenge of implementing Survey and Manage, and weak performance of Adaptive Management Areas.

Miner then speaks at length about repercussions for scientists, managers, the Research Station, and communities after the NWFP went into effect. She expresses respect for many scientists in the process by name and how they had to stretch to take on new tasks, especially in the social sciences, which were hindered by lack of data, and how the whole effort was a big step forward for conservation. She also reflects on moral and ethical dimensions of conservation decisions, the monitoring plans and practices for the NWFP, and the then-emerging Forest Ecosystem Management and Ecological, Economic, and Social Assessment to address topics such as old growth, biodiversity, climate change, and much more. The conversation then touches on diverse topics, such as Tribal nations, the values of big, old forests (including their emotional impacts), and the “coaching” influence of Thomas and Franklin, but she notes the near total absence of women in the ranks of FEMAT and the tendency for research leaders to be tall and bearded. Miner closes the interview reflecting on her appreciation of her career and accomplishments such as her contribution to management of the NWFP science synthesis, having helped produce documents of various types that are written for a general readership, and how this work educated a diverse array of people to the workings of science, including processes such as peer review.


Cindy Miner


Northwest Forest Plan Oral History Collection (OH 48)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


July 21, 2017


Sam Schmieding


Born Digital Audio




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Sam Schmieding


Cindy Miner


Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Portland, Oregon

Original Format

Born Digital Audio



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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