Mark Andre: Kin to the Earth

Tom Wheeler, EPIC

Something was in the water in Humboldt in the late 1970s. Important events coincided with a new generation of activists armed with natural resource education and eager to put theory into practice—a fortunate stroke of serendipity. A generation of environmental leaders grew up here, passed from radical upstarts to respected leaders of the restoration movement. And at the core of this movement was Mark Andre. As Mark approaches retirement at the end of 2020, we thought it was appropriate to publicly recognize what he has been for over 40 years: Mark is a Kin to the Earth.

Mark moved from San Diego to Humboldt in 1976 because it was as far as he could go within the state while still maintaining in-state tuition. In moving here, Mark found his life’s passion — forest and watershed restoration — as well as a community of like-minded friends. Before school even started, Mark was already in the forest, surveying Redwood National Park, part of an effort to prevent adjacent timber companies from poaching old-growth from within the park because of unclear boundaries. 

Mark graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree and graduate work in natural resource planning and watershed management. He punctuated his time inside the classroom with plenty of time in the field, working summers for the National Park Service while still finding time to travel to D.C. with Tim McKay to lobby, participate in the GO Road protests, survey what is now the Siskiyou Wilderness, and more. 

Inspired by the kinder, gentler forestry preached by Dr. Dale Thornburgh, Mark became a registered professional forester and teamed up with a couple of his co-conspirators — Greg Blommstrom, Aldaron Laird, Steve Madrone, Riley Quarles, Dusty Escano, Randy Stemler, Steve Salzman, Steve Barager, Terry Bean, Dwight Streamfellow, Keith Barnard, Jan Morrison, Randy Sherer, and others—to start a watershed restoration business. With the newly-expanded Redwood National Park, there was plenty of work available. In these vagabond days, Mark and company were building the restoration movement from tents or converted school buses.

Mark Andre with the Forest Stewardship Guild at the Arcata Community Forest.

One of those wild-eyed restoration radicals, Steve Madrone, had this to say about his old comrade: “Mark is our local ‘Man of the Trees,’ having spent his whole adult life planting, saving, and managing forests for the trees! From Redwood National Park expansion surveying to taking over the management of the Arcata Community Forest Mark has always been one with the trees. Thank you Mark Andre. You are a Kin to the Earth.”

In 1984, Mark was hired by the City of Arcata. Mark’s charge was to implement a new kind of forestry program for the community forest, one that blended a variety of values and visions together — recreation, clear water, income from forestry, and now carbon storage — and was managed openly and transparently. Many public lands operate under a similar charter — ”multiple use, sustained yield,” to use the federal parlance — but few forests have balanced the competing values as well as the Arcata Community Forest under Mark’s watch. As Mark proved himself on the community forest, his role at the city grew, eventually moving up to become the Director of Environmental Services. Under his aegis, Arcata made major strides towards developing a more sustainable city. It was through big things — like doubling the size of the Arcata community forest, expanding the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary by 88%, the creation of the 600 acre Jacoby Creek-Cannon Slough Wildlife Area, and convincing the City of Arcata to join a landmark lawsuit concerning climate change, which resulted in a settlement with more than $500 million directed towards renewable energy development — that helped build Mark’s public reputation, but it was his kind, considerate leadership that his co-workers will miss most. 

Mark also established himself as a leader in the national sustainable forestry movement. Mark helped to found the Forest Stewards Guild, a coalition of sustainable forestry practitioners and advocates from across the country. Mark also served on the state Board of Forestry for many years. Mark even found time for work as a forester, helping clients adopt the sustainable forestry models he had put into place at the Arcata Community Forest. And although he is retiring from the city, Mark still plans to continue work as a professional forester, but with more time for hiking and kayaking.

Mark’s legacy is not limited to Humboldt. As many of us have experienced, Humboldt is more than a physical place. It is an idea of a different kind of world, where forestry can co-exist with conservation, where working with natural processes leads to social, environmental and economic gains. Many people who come here, who experience this sense of place, are moved by the experience. Perhaps Mark’s greatest legacy are those who have come and enjoyed the community forest or the Arcata marsh and have migrated across the West, taking with them a different vision of what is possible. I am excited to see what fruit these seeds will yield.