Get involved to change OWAA

Criticism is only annoying when it goes unreported.
Some may argue my point, but unshared criticism serves no one. Those complaining just allow complaints to fester and those who can make a difference are never given the opportunity. As president of OWAA I fully expect to hear the thoughts and concerns of our membership. Some are quite good at this — you know who you are.
Others bite their tongues and refrain from sharing their disapproval.
Several concerns recently came to my attention through a board member, who shared feedback she’d received from members.
While the board member properly addressed the criticism, it is possible others in our organization could have the same thoughts and I wanted to take time to discuss those complaints.
Complaint No. 1: OWAA’s board is stacked with people from Western states.
The obvious response to this complaint is that people from the West are stepping up as board member candidates. Then our membership is electing them.
However, the current OWAA Board of Directors is geographically diverse with four members from the East, three from the West and two from Texas.
There have undoubtedly been times in the past 90 years when certain geographic regions have dominated board positions. Since I’ve been a member of OWAA there have been two states so well represented that members became known as the Oregon and Missouri Mafias.
Since it came up, I would also like to point out how gender balanced our current board stands, with four women and five men representing the organization. This, at least to me, is more important than regional representation.
It is a different story when you look at the OWAA Executive Committee. Counting myself, there are four Westerners and one representative from the Midwest. There is also only one woman among the five of us. In the same way the Board of Directors can become unbalanced, the executive committee is comprised of people who agreed to run and serve in their respective positions and then were elected by their peers.
Here comes the line everybody has been waiting to see: If you want to see changes on the board or executive committee, consider running or encouraging others to do so.
Finally, let me say, the current board has a wonderful balance of outdoor communicators and many are at the peak of their careers. This board is thoughtful, progressive and responsive to the needs of our members and I’m proud to be a part of our leadership.
Complaint No. 2: OWAA focuses too much on issues impacting the West.
It is true that we try to include regional issues at our annual conferences. We want to take advantage of area experts and we want to help those who attend conference find stories they can report and photograph in the area during their trip.
People should expect some regional tours and news about Midwestern issues at the 2017 conference June 24-26 in Duluth, Minnesota.
OWAA has covered a number of national issues and news at recent conferences including: climate change; the National Park Service centennial; ethical and legal use of drones; access for journalists on federal lands; impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; and invasive species.
The big issued we focused on in Billings, Montana, this past summer was the proposed public lands transfer. Some consider this a Western issue, but that is a tragic view. These are our lands and they belong to all Americans whether they live in New Hampshire, Arkansas, Alaska or Hawaii.
But if you aren’t satisfied with conference topics, the solution is the same for our conference program as it is for our makeup of the board: Get involved. If any members have suggestions for possible sessions at our 2017 conference, share them with Paul Queneau, who as our second vice president is planning the event. You can email him at ♦
— OWAA President Brett Prettyman,

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