The Land Stewards program appealed to me from the beginning for its focus on fostering a strong sense of place and developing professional skills and experiences. I knew I wanted to stay in the Mt. Hood National Forest, and was unsure of where and how to find pathway to the Forest Service. As a skier, Timberline Lodge appealed to me as a destination to work for the same reason it draws 2 million visitors a year: revered history in skiing. It has been absolutely invigorating to immerse myself in the history of skiing, but also of the ecology of Mt. Hood, the histories of its Native peoples, and the significance it holds for so many. This experience has blossomed far beyond wanting to see the snow and be in a cool building everyday (although those are still my favorite components) into a passion that drives me to continue my tours and moonlight as a volunteer with the USFS at Timberline Lodge after my AmeriCorps service ends.
I have developed such a strong professional confidence and repertoire through countless invaluable and positive interactions with the public, my Forest Service collogues, my MAI cohort members, and partner organizations. I have worked in Developed Recreation, Fisheries, Field Interpretation, Mountain Resort Team, Special Uses, Recreation Residences, Invasive Species, Public Affairs, Climbing, Wilderness and Trails in Zigzag, Hood River, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and Conboy Lake National Refuge. The independence and diversity of experiences throughout this internship have been invaluable to me as an outdoorsy individual and an emerging environmental professional.
The interpretation program was under restructuring this year so it provided the opportunity for lots of program development! The interpretive team took Smokey Bear to Kiwanis Camp, a camp for adults with disabilities
(Image 3), I developed Smores with Smokey (Image 4), a campfire program for day users and campers at Timothy Lake; the event drew visitors in the 100+ range per event. I learned Smokey has his own zip code and developed a Write a Letter campaign, and was able to reintroduce guided hikes on the West side (Image 2). I helped with PCT days in the Gorge, First Fridays in Hood River, Salmon Watch in the Gorge, Fourth of July Parade in Timberline Rim Community. I worked really closely with some amazing volunteers and permitee employees at Timberline Lodge, who I look forward to seeing around the lodge as a private citizen. I gave so many tours I lost count and learned so many fun facts (and yes, they stayed fun the whole time I promise), I can’t wait to crush Timberline trivia should the occasion ever arise.
Nothing in the environment happens independently of the rest of the system, and it makes perfect sense our natural resource operations follow the same model. We have specialists to represent the different facets of the ecosystem, and communication between disciplines and departments is critical. I was constantly in awe of how many perspectives and stakeholders were at my field excursions
From witnessing this multi-use agency in action, I have learned there are so many different ways to work in natural resources, and it is normal and welcome to explore several positions before settling in. Not only that, but if a federal agency isn’t a right fit, the other entities they work with also provide excellent avenues for environmental careers. So many folks were excited to share their resumes with me, help me workshop mine, and advocate for me. For the first time I understand how to effectively build a resume for the job I want and have the experience to flesh it out. Because of this program, I can navigate USA Jobs and mostly understand the jargon on there now. I know how to proceed with finding a job (and a career) after my season ends.
Thanks to the connections and experiences throughout the season, I will be enthusiastically pursuing careers in the Mt. Hood National Forest and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Forest Service units after graduation. There are some permanent seasonal interpretation jobs I have my eye on once they are listed . . .
I am beyond excited to have and be utilizing my hiring authority. The ability to dedicate time to work on developing resume, pursuing and reflecting on career goals were the largest assets for me in this program. Finding a job is a job, like Sherri says, so it’s great that I was able to treat it like one. I know I want a mix of field and office work for now, with some autonomous decision making, and with a little less public interaction. These reflections have allowed me to build out my career goals and recognize my own skill set, which are invaluable in any field.
I have really appreciated this experience for all it has been; at times I felt like it would be impossible to finish my season, and others I felt drawn to tears at the thought of it being over. The inside out perspective of the Forest Service and Federal Environment Career Paths has shaped my career outlook and provided clearer paths for it. I would like to thank AmeriCorps and the MAI staff for providing this excellent opportunity and atmosphere for learning and growth.