Sunday, August 16, 2015

Intern Profile

First solo backpacking overnight in
Crater Lake National Park
My work experiences have been varied but centered around the intention to broaden my understanding and technical skills needed in the forestry field.  I will be completing two degrees in Forest Engineering and International Studies in June 2016 from Oregon State University.

For the Summer of 2015, I am an intern with the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project (AFR) in Southwestern Oregon.  It is a very unique experience because I am working with four partners throughout the summer on various aspects of the management that goes into working with a collaborative team.  The team includes the US Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Lomakatsi (NGO), and the City of Ashland. 

I split my time between the partners.  It is a combination of fieldwork, technical writing, and public or private meetings. The opportunity to work with the AFR partners broadens my understanding of active forest management interconnected with community participation.  The urban intersection with the forest and the community’s stake in the management process is unique and critical for success.  Work in this setting requires a high level of communication with multiple people. With minimal oversight to deciding my daily activities and no one direct responsibility maintaining reachable goals and clear intentions is key.  

Working in the woods
Previous work experience with Western Forest Products (WFP) in British Columbia gave me insight in the private industry managing on public lands.  It was much more traditional West Coast management with minimal complexities compared to my work at AFR.  The experience with WFP was focused more towards operations and harvesting feasibility.  It was applied engineering while I worked with professionals.  AFR is  applied silviculture and the integration of the social complexities within the management plans on federal lands.  Both of these experiences are valuable to continuing my understanding of how forest management is applied differently.

Professionally I aim to work towards managerial positions by that landscape, people, or resources.  I appreciate a position that gives me the hole picture.  I am more likely to seek positions in the private forest industry but I am open to any possibility.  I want responsibility and respect for what I know and can learn.  I am interested in working abroad for a few years in the forestry sector.  Eventually I will pursue an MBA or some way to further my education and qualifications. Personally I want the flexibility to travel and live in different places for the next ten years.  

I'm not sure where my skills can be most useful and enhanced but I have the passion for the applied science, engineering, and social needs surrounding natural resource management. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wildland Fire Leadership Council Visits Ashland

Wildland Fire Leadership Council at the Ashland Forest Resilient Project
July 28th – 29th, 2015
Ashland, Oregon
Meeting purpose
The Wildland Fire Leadership Council came to Ashland, Oregon on July 28-29th, 2015.  The meeting aimed to further understand how the leadership team can build around the goals of the Wildland Fire Cohesive strategy.  The gathering included a field tour of the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project (AFR) and deliberations regarding the future role WFLC has in national landscape management.
The gathering was full of important and influential people on the Wildland fire management throughout the country.  Representatives of public agencies and private organizations came from across the country for this meeting including; US Forest Service, Department of Interior, Fisheries and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Fire Adapted Communities, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Association of Counties, Association of Governors, City of Ashland and many more.   People came from all backgrounds with the purpose to address the ongoing wildland fire management.  Most notable was the presence of USDA Secretary Robert Bonnie and US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. 

Field Trip
Tuesday’s field trip demonstrated the approach of the AFR project as a successful and forward thinking example of implementing the Cohesive Strategy within an ecosystems services framework.  The partners aimed to demonstrate to visitors the successes and challenges of working with a collaborative approach for forest restoration and wildfire hazard reduction. 
Ashland Mayor John Stromberg
Context at Reeder Reservoir
We began the tour at the Ashland City reservoir.  Overlooking the city’s water source we got a briefing on the history of collaboration and forest management in Ashland. Partners from the US Forest Service, Nature Conservancy, and the Mayor of Ashland set the stage for some context of how a highly engaged community and interfaced with dry forests became more accepting of active forest management for wildland fire, ecosystem restoration, and water availability.
Ranger Donna Mickley, USFS
Background consisted of how the city acquired land; historical timber industry; effects from major flood events; and the community engagement offered the obstacles community leaders had to overcome. 
We observed the reservoir storing 6 weeks worth of water for the City.  This backdrop set the stage that the community directly feels the water constraints.  The city’s effort expressed a voluntary request by its citizens to contribute to the water conservation by decreasing their personal use.  Within a year a 30% decrease in water consumption was observed.   In addition, the city also initiated a small fee added on to the city’s residents’ water bill to go directly towards ongoing watershed management.
            White Rabbit Trailhead
Forest Division Chief
Chris Chambers
At this stop we spit into a three group rotation in order to be exposed to the many caveats of being a part of a collaborative that manages natural resources with a high degree of community input and agency oversight.
Robert Bonnie
USDA Secretary
We observed an example of successful prescribed fire.  The discussion focused on the challenges with using fire as a tool in the Pacific Northwest.  The challenges are primarily due to maintaining air quality according the National Air Quality regulations.  When smoke is created, it tends to sit in the valleys where communities often reside.  Health concerns are high priority and the constraints make it impossible to effectively use fire.  The Ashland Watershed had three days to burn in 2014 with nearly 2,000 acres of burn piles currently ready for flames.  A Florida representative exclaimed they had over 200 days to burn.  Prescribed fires are used to reduce fuel build up and to simulate what resilient ecosystems experience when a wildfire runs through.
Marko Bey
Exec Director at Lomakatsi
Then with different representatives from the US Forest Service and NGO-organization Lomakatsi Restoration Group funding, grants, and agency implementation was discussed at length on the newness of integrating collaborative management to a landscape scale. The theme resounded that using a Stewardship Agreement between the partners and the US Forest changed the dynamics of collaboration.  The table was evened so that those working with the forest service could be treated equally as truer partners. 
Don Boucher,
Stewardship Coordinator, USFS
Finally, the message of that intense diversity and land management objectives was truly a feat to conquer.  The incredible complexity and diversity found within a small area of the watershed is astounding and the partners have achieved a high level of success to combine the staggering objectives.  While the objectives prioritize ecosystem resiliency, wildland fire risk reduction, and water quality, the nitty gritty details are not always addressed.  For instance at the project level forest health varies, volumes are not commercially viable, social values, and sufficient supporting infrastructure. 
Private Property and Youth Crew
“All hands, All lands” approach has extended the fuels and ecosystem treatments from solely federal lands to private landowners throughout the watershed.  The NRCS has been instrumental in funding projects for landowners in strategic areas surrounding Ashland.  The property we visited was an exemplary example of progressive fuels management in a tense environment.  For over twenty years, the significant member of the community landowner entrusted a forester, Marty Main, with fuels management near town.  Amazingly the juxtaposition of federal and private land looks remarkably similar on both sides of the fence thanks to the hard work of AFR and the landowner.  Currently private lands surrounding Ashland are getting grants from the NRCS to fund fuels treatments on the outskirts and interspersed with the watershed. 
Marko Bey and crew leads
   Midway through lunch, 20 young people descended from the adjacent slopes. They were apart of the Lomakatsi Youth Crew.  For one month in the summer high school juniors and seniors were hired to a work and education experience in a professional setting.  They work for most of the morning and then are joined by experienced professionals for a focused lesson around forest and natural resource restoration.  This introduction to working in natural resource management is hugely influential on the people by demonstrating the complexity and science of managing natural resources.  Lomakatsi Restoration Project is a setting a high bar for training an effective new workforce. 
Lomakatsi Youth Crew
            Community Input
Upon returning to the downtown Ashland, discussions transitioned to presentations about community involvement.  Local researchers with Southern Oregon University presented social science data that supported the significant contribution outreach provided to the success of the project.  This was demonstrated through the public survey results collected over a short period.  
   The Chamber of Commerce spoke about increasing access to tourists and community members through a collaborative effort to create a map with educational material and local trails.  
   The Watershed Art Group expressed their appreciation for watershed ecosystem services through local art projects to be sponsored and displayed on highly used trails.  A beautiful sculpture of a fisher was created by their efforts.  
   Fire Chief John Karns discussed the efforts behind the Fire Adapted Communities Program to prepare and educate homeowners to maintain safe spaces in their neighborhoods.  
  And finally Jon O’Connor from Oregon Department of Forestry and George McKinley from SOFRC, rounded it up with a summary of the larger landscape plans with the Rouge Valley Cohesive Implementation Strategy and the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative. 

Jessica Kessinger, USFS Chief Tom Tidwell,
USDA Secretary Robert Bonnie, &
Ashland Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator Allison Lerch
Overall the WFLC was extremely impressed with the organization and presentation of the successes seen in the AFR project.  It was a long day but very successful and effective way to demonstrate the scope of the AFR project. 

My Role
It was my job to assist the City of Ashland and the partners put on the tour.  For several days leading up to the gathering, we made signs, finalized schedules, attendees, food, transportation, and the many last minute details. Chris Chambers, City of Ashland – Chief of Forestry Division, was instrumental in the entire process of making the tour going smoothly.  Allison Lerch, City of Ashland – Fire Adaptive Communities Coordinator- and myself were a part of his team to manage time and deal with the constant logistics shift. 

WFLC /AFR Perspectives & Highlights
The next day the WFLC attendees congregated to discuss lessons learned from AFR and the possible opportunities to apply the process further nationally.
To share their perspectives a panel of AFR partner representatives discussed key challenges and ways to improve the collaborative process.  The following summarizes the comments:
Mount Ashland - No snow year, 2015
  • Continuity and consistency of partner representation particularly from USFS (Don Boucher, Stewardship Coordinator)
    • Stewardship Agreement needs staff and capacity
    • Reward USFS for longevity and continuity
  • Maintaining capacity to coordinate technical and administration support
    • Internal and external training on board with Wildland fire strategies
  • Smoke management limits days to burn
    • Rebrand public perception of smoke
    • o   Shared endorsement and acceptance of risk
    • o   Widen burn windows
  • Community ownership and outreach
    • Get community buy in
    • Better integrative planning and response within communities
    • o   Increased public information and outreach
    • Emergency awareness and preparedness
  • Relationships
    • Created by transparency and trust
    • o   Stewardship Agreements shares the work and levels partner input
Out of the information was discussed and presented from the AFR perspective many questions were left for deliberation.
  • What are the causes for collaboratives to be successful?
  • How can collaboration be streamlined nationally?
  • How can we build trust while implementing the first NEPA?
WFLC members shared their own reflections and concerns highlighted during the field tour and further discussions.
  • Transformation of the vision at different levels
  • Social science involvement
  • Stewardship
Overall, participating in this opportunity was interesting to view the AFR Project with a national lens.  The challenges Southern Oregon faces are similar and different to communities around the country.  Through additional national support and collaboration they can model a methodology to ensuring safer communities and more resilient ecosystems.