One of the greatest opportunities of the Mt. Adams Institute’s Public Lands Stewards program is the fact that not only do you get to work for the Forest Service as a wilderness ranger but you also get to shadow other employees in different positions and learn a multitude of diverse skills and tools for other sectors within the Forest Service.
I learned early on that this year I was not going to be able to incorporate this cross training to its full capacity because off the health regulations due to Covid-19; however, some great opportunities were still available!
At the beginning of the season I was able to work with another employee to identify hazard trees that were in danger of falling near signs or parking areas. We marked the trees, took their GPS coordinates, measured height and diameter, then I got to observe the felling process done with a chainsaw. Towards the middle of the season I worked two days with a few employees from Timber. We went out cruising for an on-going timber sale. I learned how to find a plot using a GPS device, determine if any trees in that plot were able to be cut down using a Spiegel Relaskop. If a tree was able to be cut I would mark it, measure its diameter, check if there was any sweep defects, and use the Spiegel Relaskop or Laser rangefinder to measure its height.
Even though the Wilderness Rangers do our own fair share of trail maintenance, I took the opportunity to extend a regular wilderness hitch by 4 extra days and met up with the Trail Crew for some work. The trip mostly involved log out, brushing, and cleaning out drainages. I was able to sharpen my skills with the crosscut saw and even got my class A bucking certificate. All that training paid off and I eventually moved up to a class B sawyer. One of my favorite cross training opportunities was training in the Red Top fire lookout. Myself, my fellow intern, and our boss all went up to the lookout together and stayed one night up there for the full experience. I learned how to use the fire finder, how to use the radio and call in a fire if one is spotted, and how to take the weather using a weather finding kit. We were able to put our training to use that next day as a small fire was causing some visible smoke in a near-by valley.
I was asked by both my supervisors, one from the Forest Service and one from Mt. Adams Institute, if I felt that I had missed out at all this summer because of the Covid-19 restrictions. I can honestly say that this summer felt like it was nothing but opportunity for me. There was one small event we were unable to volunteer for that involved monitoring mountain goats, besides that I received more cross training than I actually expected! I have never been in a work position before where I have constantly been learning new things and where supervisors care so much about presenting me with as many opportunities as they can. It has been a jampacked summer full of learning, growth, and good times.