Mistaken Identity or Identity Crisis?

Cristina Bowerman Cristina Bowerman
Executive Director
Learn more about Cristina Bowerman.

If the COVID pandemic has taught me anything it’s that many lawmakers in our region are unfamiliar with our industry and what we do as professionals. Since mid-March when executive orders were enforced, we have been left to interpret what categories of essential work, if any, our industry and professions fall in.

For example, Alaska’s executive order made no reference to arborist related trades, only loggers. Idaho identified landscapers and while Washington specified arborists and forestry, it combined them with construction trades. British Columbia left plenty of room for interpretation with broad categories for infrastructure and non-health essential service providers. And, Oregon remained unique in its stance by not providing an essential businesses list but emphasizing that businesses could remain open if social distancing, hygiene and sanitation guidelines were met.

I received numerous phone calls, emails and social media posts asking for guidance and help when interpreting the executive orders. I understood the confusion and frustration shared by many of you as I too was navigating unchartered waters. But my greatest realization was this: When you have no presence in local or state governments you leave others to decide your fate. If you want to be recognized, you have to be identifiable.

There will come a day when COVID will be a distant memory. But we should take this opportunity to create an identity for lawmakers that emphasizes who we are, what we do, and how they can support us as citizens and taxpayers. Let’s take actionable steps such as forming coalitions in each state and British Columbia, outlining concerns, and scheduling routine appointments with government representatives so that we remain on their radar moving forward. That way when the next pandemic or disaster occurs, we are better prepared and more importantly, represented.

One of my jobs is to advocate on behalf of member concerns. Do you believe PNW-ISA should utilize its resources to better educate local and state lawmakers? If you believe this should be an initiative in our next strategic plan, please click on this link today to answer a quick, three question survey.