Mike Dockry, a Forest Service planner, has worked as the Liaison to the College of Menominee Nation since 2005. Dockry frequently works with the agency’s international programs and has international experience due to his work in the Peace Corps in Bolivia.
Why is the Forest Service working with the College of Menominee Nation?
The Menominee Nation has been managing its forest for timber since the 1850s and has harvested two and a half times the amount of the forest’s standing volume over that time period. They’ve been employing sustainable forest management in the United States longer than anyone. Even before the Forest Service was established, sustainable forestry began in Wisconsin on the Menominee reservation.
On a typical day, what do you do?
As liaison, at the Center for First Americans Forestland on the Menominee Nation College campus, I identify research, education and technical assistance projects of interest to Tribal communities throughout the Eastern United States. I identify where the Forest Service partners might have expertise and facilitate more efficient and effective ways to get things accomplished. Our partnership includes theForest Products Laboratory, Northern Research Station, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, and the Eastern Region. We conduct outreach and education activities including summits, and workshops that bring Tribal and non-Tribal experts, community members, elders, and practitioners together to discuss topics. Through forums, we exchange ideas and information for Tribes to share with their Tribal communities to enhance and stimulate job opportunities. As part of the partnership, I serve as the Forest Service liaison to the Center as a full-time employee while pursuing my doctorate in forestry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
How did you get where you are today?
I started working for the agency in 2001 as an assistant forest planner on the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests in Vermont and New York. In 2005, I was fortunate to get an internship with the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in their environmental planning department. This internship started me on my career path in planning and development. I feel I have found my dream job.
I am a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In this job, I’m working with Tribal communities in the Eastern United States and the Menominee who are the leaders in sustainable forestry in the United States. My research focuses on how indigenous communities – the Menominee in Wisconsin and the Guarayos in lowland Bolivia – have managed their forests through time.
The Menominee Nation operates the Center, a forestry and forest products research, education, and technical assistance center with a focus on sustainable forestry and sustainable forest products. I’m very proud to have this opportunity to be working with Tribal and indigenous people to understand how different communities think about sustainability.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
My mom always told me that I liked to dig holes in the back yard. In high school, I signed up for a program called “Trees for Tomorrow” where we learned a little bit about forestry. I wanted to learn how the forest worked. I entered college as an undergraduate in forestry and never looked back. I wanted to learn ecology and how a forest functioned and what forests were all about.
What’s the one thing about you few people might not know?
Although I have not done it since I’ve been back in Wisconsin – my studies have occupied my free time – I like to sing and play the guitar and the piano. In my old job, I was involved in a community chorus and symphonies in Ithaca, N.Y. where we sang Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. In high school, I was involved in musicals and several choruses that were combined with other high quality high school choruses to play with the Manhattan Philharmonic Reserves and perform at Carnegie Hall. You know, I haven’t thought about that for awhile, but it was fun.
If you could have meet with five famous people from history, who would they be?
I‘d like to meet Gifford Pinchot, the Forest Service’s first chief; former Sen. Bob La Follette, Sr. from Wisconsin; some of the Menominee Chiefs, including Chief Oshkosh; and some of my Potawatomi ancestors. I would like to know what they thought about the forest, forestry and their relationship with the forest, and what guided their decisions about forestry in their day.
Chief Oshkosh was a member of the Menominee tribe during the mid-1800s. The Tribe credits him with laying out a vision for sustainable forestry that is still very much alive today. The Menominee ceded a lot of land but were able to maintain a part of their ancestral territory which is now their reservation. Forestry became the way they held onto their land by using management practices to promote a timber economy without degrading their forests, unlike the practices used in the Lake States during the great cut over the late 1800s and early 1900s. I would like to know more about the interactions of Pinchot and La Follette, Sr., as I find them fascinating people.
The Faces of the Forest is a project of the U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication to showcase the people, places and professions within our agency, which is responsible for 193 million acres of forests and grasslands in 44 states and territories. If you know someone you would like to have profiled here, send an email with the person’s name, work location and a bit about them to Faces of the Forest.