The Council of Western State Foresters (CWSF) and Western Forestry Leadership Coalition (WFLC) gathered for the 2023 CWSF/WFLC Fall Meeting in Waikoloa, Hawai’i, November 28-30, 2023. 


This annual meeting provides an in-person opportunity for CWSF/WFLC members and partners to discuss issues and opportunities shared across the western states and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands. 

For the first time in 20 years, members and partners traveled to the island of Hawai’i. This year’s meeting was hosted by CWSF Chair and Hawai’i State Forester David Smith, with support from the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and CWSF/WFLC staff

Attendees included members and representatives from Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawai’i, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. 

Additional attendees included CWSF/WFLC staff, representatives from each western region of the USDA Forest Service and Washington Office, the National Association of State Foresters, Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, Wildland Fire Leadership Council, and the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force.

The overarching meeting themes included committee highlights, partnership opportunities, workforce development, wildfire, and general CWSF/WFLC business.  

On November 28, the CWSF meeting began with a Hawaiian blessing and welcome, which helped frame the local perspective and deepen appreciation for the Hawaiian culture and landscape.


Representatives from each of CWSF and WFLC’s committees were in attendance to report out on accomplishments from the past year and share a work plan for the year ahead. Members and partners had an opportunity to convene in small groups to discuss the activities and accomplishments of each committee.

Attendees also received updates from the National Association of State Foresters and discussed and approved the 2024 organizational budget. 

Kelsey Delaney, CWSF/WFLC Director of Partnerships and Program Implementation, shared key accomplishments, including the rollout of the new CWSF Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act state forestry stories webpage and Good Neighbor Authority synthesis

To conclude the day, J.B. Friday, with the University of Hawai’i at Mãnoa, spoke about the Hawaiian community and ecology. Friday’s presentation helped to set the stage for the subsequent day’s field tour. 

On November 29, CWSF and WFLC members ventured outside for a field tour hosted by DOFAW to Pu’u Wa’awa’a Forest Reserve Cinder Cone and Kamuela Hardwoods


For the final day of the 2023 Fall Meeting, federal and state partners reconvened for the WFLC portion of the meeting, led by WFLC Co-Leads David Smith and Mary Farnsworth. 

The meeting began with a policy update from Neil Simpson, CWSF/WFLC Director of Policy. Simpson highlighted the 2023 Farm Bill, fiscal year 2024 appropriations, flexible funding for Forest Action Plans, and the Community Wildfire Defense Grants.

Steve Koehn, USDA Forest Service Director of Cooperative Forestry, provided an update from the USDA Forest Service Washington Office. 

Partner presentations included a briefing from Mike Zupko and Katie Lighthall on the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and National Cohesive Strategy Addendum. Annie Schmidt with the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission provided an overview of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management report, which was compiled by 50 Commission members, including Kacey KC, representing State Foresters.  


Speakers from KUPU, the American Samoa Community College Agriculture, Community, and Natural Resources Division, and the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi joined forces to share case studies and examples of workforce innovations.

The final portion of the WFLC meeting provided members with dedicated time to meet in small groups for conversations among Forest Service and state personnel from each western region.

The CWSF and WFLC membership will come together again May 21-23 for the 2024 Spring Meeting in Fargo, ND. 

Photos: Sara Goodwin, Danielle Okst, Patricia Payne, and Neil Simpson