VetsWork: Umatilla National Forest HQ’s New Conservation Educator

Daniel Abbott

Hello everyone. I’m the Conservation Education and Wilderness Intern on the Umatilla National Forest. What does that mean? Well, I work for the Public Affairs Officer and Youth Engagement Coordinator and part of my duties are to assist them with their daily operations.

Over the past couple weeks I have been coordinating the presenters and setting up tours for Tri Tech Skills Center’s Natural Resources Career Camp for Young Women. During this summer camp, 20 high school aged women will come together from the Tri-Cities area and participate in hands-on activities led by professionals from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other state and federal agencies. The students will get to participate in:

  • Interpretive Hikes
  • Plant & Tree Identification
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation Presentation
  • Law Enforcement Activities
  • Fire Suppression Hands-on Training
  • Observing a Prescribed Burn
  • Information Sessions on College Opportunities
  • Job Opportunity Presentations


My work station here on the Umatilla National Forest Headquarters in Pendleton, OR.

Coming up in April I will get to take part in an Arbor Day celebration in Pendleton. Pendleton Parks & Recreation, Pendleton Tree Commission, and Umatilla National Forest are coming together to educate the community on how to plant trees properly, where to plant specific trees and how to prune them. During these events we will be handing out:

  • Western Larch
  • Mountain Ash
  • Mountain Alder
  • Service Berry
  • Mock Orange

These tree seedlings will be free and they can be planted anywhere they want. And if you’re lucky enough to stop by at the right time you can get your picture taken with Smokey the Bear… who will be played by yours truly!

1990 "Why?" by Rudy Wendelin. PR Image for "Celebrating Smokey Bear: Rudy Wendelin and the Creation of an Icon" exhibition, August 9, 2014 - February 1, 2015. Organized by the Virginia Department of Forestry, to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Image courtesy of the National Agricultural Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 “Why?” by Rudy Wendelin. Image courtesy of the National Agricultural Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of the VetsWork program participants get together three times during the term of service to share experiences and engage in educational and/or professional development activities. These are called Pod Meetings and our first took place on March 24th in Joseph, OR near Wallowa Lake. The weather, in Pendleton, OR, was just getting into the mid 60’s and sunny while by the lake it was still snowing.


Joseph, OR. Woke up Friday morning to find a snow cover vehicle.

The VetsWork AmeriCorps members from the Deschutes, Umatilla, and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forests got together to learn more about the region from Mary Ellen Bishop who works at Wallowology, which is a non-profit educational and science based community center. Ms. Bishop explained to us how Wallowa Lake was formed from ancient glaciers, how volcanic activity also had a role in creating the landscape in Wallowa County and taught us about some of the plant life in the area as well. During the day Ms. Bishop had her dog, Diesel, along at almost every stop. The rambunctious Australian Shepard seemed to be full of endless energy and was always willing to chase pine cones.


Wallowa Lake State Park. Diesel wanting someone to throw a pine cone.

We visited the Wallowology Center, Iwetemlaykin Trail Site, the South end of Wallowa Lake, a cut out along Highway 350, and an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Steelhead Acclimation Station. While at the ODFW site, we said goodbye to Ms. Bishop as she handed us over to the staff at that facility. Here, we learned how 260,000 baby fish were cared for and released at different locations around the state when they grew up to be big and strong. When the fish are ready to leave the staff allow the fish to leave on their own. After so long, if the teenage fish haven’t left on their own, they are politely nudged out of mom dad’s basement and told to get out!

ODFW Group pic

Back Row: Mike Bishop, Tyson Schoenmoser, Myself, Mike McGraw & Richard “Allen” Castillo.

Front Row: Verna Gonzales, Mary Bishop, Kyle Davies & Brian Cummings.

Well until next time America!

Dan Abbott – OUT.

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