Kevin Preister

.Kevin Preister is Executive Director of the Center for Social Ecology and Public Policy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the concept of productive harmony between the human and physical environments. For 25 years, Dr. Preister has been engaged in change projects-recreation, water, oil and gas, urban re-development, welfare reform, agriculture, and natural resource management. Central to his experience has been the understanding of the natural systems within human communities that are place-based, geographically-centered, and are responsible for caretaking, survival, and cultural beliefs, traditions, and practices. Once the change agent is operating with the natural community systems, new opportunities emerge for integrating the interests of formal organizations with community interests.

Dr. Preister has applied this understanding in a variety of settings, from small communities and businesses to large regional communities and multi-national businesses. In the arena of natural resource management, Dr. Preister and his colleagues within the field of Social Ecology have influenced national policy related to land use planning and community-based management approaches. He has been involved in well over 50 communities as an instructor for BLM's National Training Center. Several federal offices have made direct use of the JKA human geographic mapping systems to reorder their relationships with local communities. Project troubleshooting has involved oil and gas leasing, recreation development, forest and watershed management and more.

Dr. Preister also has focused on human service delivery and poverty reduction, working on one of the first welfare reform projects in the State of Oregon in West Medford, as well as projects involving homelessness and urban redevelopment.

Dr. Preister has conducted extensive training programs in socially responsive management for corporate and government clients. He received his doctorate in 1994 from the University of California at Davis in economic anthropology.


Social Ecology Associates
479 Russell St., Suite 101A
Ashland, OR 97520
(541) 601-4797

Professional Summary

Every community has a culture by which its beliefs, traditions and practices are practiced, communicated and passed on to others. Human change initiatives—projects, programs and policies of government or corporations—must fit within the culture of a geographic area, and offer social, economic and ecological benefits in order to be successful, effective and sustainable.

Improved linkages between informal community systems and the institutions that serve them improve efforts to sustain human ecosystems. By entering the routines of a community (The Discovery Process), one can understand the kinds of people living there, how they communicate, what’s important to them, and the existing cultural patterns of issue resolution. This social/cultural information is a major resource in designing change programs, whether ecosystem management in the rural areas, low income housing and urban re-development in the cities, economic development, programs to address climate change, and other sectors of society facing change. Change programs work that “fit the culture” and fail if “cultural alignment” is not achieved. My areas of focus include:

  • Community and Regional Assessments
  • Issue Management Systems
  • Policy Formation and Implementation
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Socially-Responsive Design
  • Innovative Governance

Professional Experience
The Center for Social Ecology and Public Policy, Ashland, Oregon

Title: Executive Director, Center for Social Ecology and Public Policy
Mission: Creating public policy formation through direct citizen participation and culture-based design

  • Organizes seminars for Social Ecology practitioners to summarize learning and challenges in this emerging professional field.
  • Trains cohorts of social service agencies in strategies for poverty reduction based on cultural practices and aspirations of poor people.
  • Conducts an annual Field School in Social Ecology and Public Policy, in conjunction with Southern Oregon University, in order to develop professional practitioners in Social Ecology.
  • Conducts regional social assessment and opportunity structuring to support groups engaged in promoting expanded small diameter tree harvest at a landscape level, simultaneously addressing social, economic and ecological dimensions.

James Kent Associates, with offices in Basalt, Colorado; Ashland, Oregon and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Mission: Enhancing productive harmony between human and natural environments; optimizing social and economic benefits of development projects; fostering capacity to manage citizen issues in settings of rapid change

  • A leader in the paradigm change within the Bureau of Land Management to community-based ecological stewardship. For over fifteen years, I have conducted training programs and provided direct services and troubleshooting to various BLM offices around the country, leading to policy changes in planning and management practices at the national level.
  • Instructor, National Training Center, Bureau of Land Management.   Developed and instructed for the Partnership Series suite of courses, covering topics: “Learning Community,” “Community-Based Ecosystem Stewardship,” “Community Economic Assessment.” These courses have brought us to over 50 different communities in the West, several times more than once and have led to very real stewardship projects, new programs, and the formation of citizen-led stewardship groups.
  • Created a GIS product for the Willamette National Forest in 2002 in the southern Willamette Valley (population: 800,000) with extensive community contact to identify trends, citizen issues, and opportunities. By making social and economic information visible through human geographic mapping, this information is now on equal terms with biophysical data in a manner that was not possible ten years ago, contributing to an expanding proactive management capacity.
  • Our Human Geographic Mapping system has been adopted in land use plans in at least 15 different federal offices.
  • Successfully fostered citizen-based design of several new development projects which improved the community-oriented elements of design and expedited the approval process.
  • Engaged in many community-based planning projects which integrated agency concerns and citizen issues to produce responsive results.

Selected Projects and Clients

  • Regional recreation assessment, Oregon Department of Forestry, 2009
  • Village planning with citizen support, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Midland Pacific Homes, Inc., 2008
  • The Ka`ū Listening Project, a community assessment of citizen issues regarding change and development, Office of the Mayor, County of Hawaii, 2008
  • The Discovery Process: Heart and Soul Planning that Mobilizes Residents, A Training Workshop and Project Development Support, Killingly, Connecticut, Orton Family Foundation, 2008
  • Positioning the Rogue Valley Transportation District for Long-Term Financial Stability, Medford, Oregon, 2008
  • Social ecology of design of new subdivision, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Kona Heights, LLC, 2007
  • First comprehensive Master Plan, Sierra County, New Mexico, 2006
  • The Identification of Issues, Opportunities and Communication Strategies Related to BLM Land Use Planning, Central Oregon Resource Area and Baker City Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, 2006
  • Building Social Capital: Enhancing the Strengths of the Pocket Neighborhoods of West Medford, West Medford Livability Project, West Medford Community Coalition and the Carpenter Foundation, 2003
  • Oil and Gas Reform and Issue Scoping for a Revised Land Use Plan, Bureau of Land Management, Farmington, New Mexico, 2001
  • Creating Socially Responsive Watershed Enhancement Projects. Kootenai Tribe, Bonner’s Ferry,  Idaho, 2001

Awards and Offices Held

Keynote Address, The Oregon/Washington Leadership Forum of 2004 (Bureau of Land Management), held in Clarkston, Washington, May 11-13. Title: “Social Ecology: How do we engage the public?”

Lecture Series, University of Helsinki, Finland, The Theory and Management of Tourism, and Anthropological Contributions to Paradigm Shifts in Natural Resource Management, Renvall Institute, December 8-10.

Recipient, Rural Policy Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.  Title:  "From Natural Resource Sectors to Trade and Services Sectors along South Oregon's Coast:  A Case Study in Economic Transition."

Honorary Praxis Award by the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists, Washington D.C.  Title: "The Issue-Centered Approach to Social Impact Assessment."


Doctor of Philosophy, University of California at Davis, Anthropology
Master of Science, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., Anthropology
Bachelor of Science Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO., Psychology

Selected Publications

“Wind Energy Development and Public Perception,” International Rights of Way, May/June, pp. 32-35 (with James A. Kent, Trish Malone and Dan Wood), 2009.

 “The Willamette National Forest,” Chapter 3 IN Place-Based Planning: Innovations and Applications from Four Western Forests, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Recreation & Tourism Initiative, General Technical Report, PNW-GTR-741, April (with Jennifer O. Farnum and Patti Rodgers), 2008.

“Social Ecology and Public Policy,” on the website of the Society for Applied Anthropology,, 2004.

“A Human Geographic Issue Management System for Natural Resource Managers in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.” James Kent Associates (with L. Ibanez Dalponte, T. Keys, M. Gordon, K. Saylor, A. Arias, J. Kent), Willamette National Forest, October, 2002.

“Using Social Ecology to Meet the Productive Harmony Intent of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” Hastings West-Northwest Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Volume 7, Issue 3, Spring, with James A. Kent. Berkeley, CA.: Hastings College of the Law, 2001.

“The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker as an Asset: Creating Community Benefits from Habitat Restoration,” a report and project for U.S. Army Environmental Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg, December, with Dave Schultz, Dick Merritt, Kris Komar, James A. Kent, 2000.

 “Methods for the Development of Human Geographic Boundaries and Their Uses”, in partial completion of Cooperative Agreement No. 1422-P850-A8-0015 between James Kent Associates and the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Task Order No. 001, 1999.

 “Social Ecology: A New Pathway to Watershed Restoration.”  In Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices, by Jack E. Williams, Michael P. Dombeck and Christopher A. Wood, Editors. Bethesda, Md.: The American Fisheries Society (with James A. Kent), 1997.

“Culture, Strategies and Community Empowerment at the EPA Smuggler Superfund Site, Aspen, Colorado: A Case for Understanding the Impact of Oral Communication Networks and Pathways on Informal Decision Making Systems.” (With Kent J.A., and C. Hunka) IN Community Culture and the Environment: A Guide to Understanding a Sense of Place, 2002, U.S. EPA (EPA 842-B-01-003), Office of Water, Washington, D.C., 1997.

“Social Ecology in Ecosystem Restoration,” in The Role of Restoration in Ecosystem Management, David L. Pearson & Charles V. Klimas (eds), pp. 199-207. Madison, WI: Society for Ecological Restoration (with James A. Kent), 1996.

"The Theory and Management of Tourism Impacts," IN Tourism Environment: Nature, Culture, Economy, Tej Vir Singh, Valene L. Smith, Mary Fish & Linda K. Richter (eds.), pp. 148-60.  New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1992.  Also in, Tourism Recreation Research, Vol. XIV (1): 15-22, 1989.

"Issue-Centered Social Impact Assessment," IN Anthropological Praxis - Translating Knowledge into Action, Robert W. Wulff & Shirley J. Fiske (eds.), pp. 39-55.  Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 1987.


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