3rd Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference
"Shared Responsibility: Research, Management, and Communities"
April 17-19, 2012 ~ Hilton Hotel ~ Seattle, Washington, USA
Colleen Morton Busch and Rev. Kansan David Zimmerman
In 2008, when a wildfire threatened Tassajara, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States, the monks who lived there successfully defended it. Their experience provides insight into a number of the current social issues of fire management. Their story, told in the book Fire Monks, presents a vivid example of a community choosing to take responsibility for themselves and their home. As the fire approached, the monastery's residents worked in cooperation with fire professionals, but ultimately, when evacuation orders came, several monks decided to stay put. This decision was made carefully, considering various factors, including confidence in Tassajara's defensibility and their intimate, local knowledge of the place, the community's collective commitment to taking care of it, a high tolerance for uncertainty and a focus. On presence of mind--what a firefighter might call "situational awareness." In conversation, the author of Fire Monks and one of the resident monks who stayed during the fire will discuss the various human dimensions the experience highlighted, including the seemingly unlikely intersection of meditation practice and wildland firefighting and how the two disciplines, as evidenced at Tassajara, make a powerful partnership.
Colleen Morton Busch is the author of Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara. The true story of how a group of resident monks saved their monastery from devastation in 2008, Fire Monks was named one of the best books of 2011. A Zen practitioner, Busch lives in Northern California.
Rev. Kansan David Zimmerman has been practicing Zen for over 20 years. In 2006 he was ordained in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and spent eight years at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the West. David was Tassajara Director at the time of the 2008 Basin Complex fire that threatened the community, and was one of five monks who stayed behind to meet the fire when it arrived. He currently lives at San Francisco Zen Center, where he is Program Director, in addition to teaching and leading workshops on living an awakened, compassionate life.
Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara
In June 2008 more than two thousand wildfires, all started by a single lightning storm, blazed across the state of California. Tassajara, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States, was at particular risk. Set deep in the Ventana wilderness east of Big Sur, the center is connected to the outside world by a single unpaved road. If fire were to enter the canyon, there would be no way out.
Disaster struck during the summer months, when Tassajara opens its doors to visitors and the grounds fill with guests expecting a peaceful respite. Instead, the mountain air filled with smoke, and monks broke from regular meditation to conduct fire drills. All visitors were evacuated, and many Zen students followed. A small crew of residents and firefighters remained, planning to defend Tassajara. But nothing could have prepared them for what came next.
When a treacherous shift in weather conditions brought danger nearer still, firefighters made the flash decision to completely evacuate the monastery. As the firefighters and remaining residents caravanned out the long road from Tassajara, five monks turned back, risking their lives to save the monastery. Fire Monks is their story.
Lyle Laverty, President, The Laverty Group
Former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish Wildlife and Parks, Lyle is President of The Laverty Group, a natural resource consulting service. Lyle was nominated as Assistant Secretary of the Interior by President Bush and was confirmed by the United States Senate and sworn into office on October 30, 2007. In this capacity, he had policy responsibility for policies and programs associated with the development, conservation and utilization of fish, wildlife, and recreation, historical resources of the nation. Mr. Laverty had direct administrative responsibility for the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service, agencies with combined annual appropriations exceeding $4 billion.
Before joining the Bush Administration, Mr. Laverty served as the Director of Colorado State Parks from 2001 to 2007. Prior to becoming Director of Colorado State Parks, Mr. Laverty served as Associate Deputy Chief of the US Forest Service, responsible for the leadership and implementation of the National Fire Plan on more than 191,000,000 acres of National Forest System lands across the United States.
In previous leadership assignments, Mr. Laverty served as Regional Forester of the Rocky Mountain Region of the US Forest Service, responsible for natural resource stewardship of more than 22 million acres of America’s Forests and Grasslands in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
From 1992 to 1997 he served as a senior executive in the Forest Service’s Washington, D.C. Headquarters Office as Director of Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness Resources. Lyle also served in a similar capacity from 1987 to 1992 as the Regional Director of Recreation Heritage, and Wilderness Resources in the Pacific Northwest Region in Portland, Oregon.
Mr. Laverty’s first assignment with the Forest Service was in timber management on the Six Rivers National Forest in Orleans California. In 1972, he became timber management assistant on the Bear Springs Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon, followed with a subsequent assignment as District Ranger on the Skykomish Ranger District of the Mt. Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest in western Washington.
During a previous headquarters assignment, Mr. Laverty served in the Chief’s office in Washington, D.C., working with the Policy Analysis, Recreation, and Strategic Planning staff units. He was Forest Supervisor of the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California from 1983 to 1987, managing a natural resource portfolio that included a 100, million board foot timber sale program.
A native of California, Mr. Laverty received a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from Humboldt State University in Northern California, and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from George Mason University in Northern Virginia. He is a graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Executive Leadership Program He is a Registered Professional Forester in California and maintains a Certified Forester registration with the Society of American Foresters.
3rd Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire ~ April 17-19, 2012 Seattle, Washington, USA