GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of science’s greatest strengths can also be one of its most profound hindrances, Carlton Owen says.
“Scientists tend to be patient and methodical people,” Owen said. “But we live in a world that’s moving faster than our research – a world that’s operating on the steroids of climate change and explosive population growth. Science is the key to solving these problems, but we have to find ways to make it work faster.”
Owen is president and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for? Forestry & Communities Inc., a $200 million entity with a mission to support sustainable forestry and forest-reliant communities. The endowment was created out of the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement between the U.S. and Canada, designed to create a stable trade environment for the softwood lumber industry.
On June 2, as part of the John Gray Distinguished Lecture Series, Owen will present a lecture entitled, “Natural Resources Sustainability: Operating at the Speed of Need.”
“Through prioritizing policy and taking advantage of new technology, we need to push research that would take 30 to 50 years, and help turn it into something closer to a three-year effort,” Owen said. “Part of the endowment’s mission is to find out how to make that happen.”
Much of Owen’s approach focuses on tackling specific issues in ways that sync with the populations they affect. For example, he discusses how to begin cleaning or protecting a water supply by approaching the communities downstream from that water.
“Only half of Americans believe in climate change, but they all care about their water,” he said. “So, that’s where you’ll find support to begin driving research and cleanup efforts to get the job done.”
Close cooperation with business is also essential, he said. For example, Owen has worked extensively with Walmart to help the company move toward sustainability.
Before serving with the endowment, Owen served as vice chairman of the board of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. During this time, he helped launch “Acres for America,” a program to offset development acre for acre with conserved forest land and other habitats. Walmart made a $35-million, 10-year commitment to the effort, which has already led to a total of 600,000 acres of conserved land in the U.S.
Owen has also held positions with Champion International Corp., the American Forest Foundation, Potlatch Corp., and the Mississippi Wildlife Federation. Before joining the endowment, Owen ran his own consulting company, The Environmental Edge.
The lecture will be given at 9:30 a.m. at the Paramount Plaza Hotel in Gainesville and is sponsored by The John Gray Fund for Excellence in Forest Resources and Conservation. The event is free and open to the public. The presentation will keynote the annual Society of American Foresters/School of Forest Resources & Conservation Spring Symposium on June 2 and 3, titled “Sustaining Forests, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in a Changing World.”