Welcome Deb Mumm-Hill!

Deb Mumm-Hill is joining the Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) as the new Executive Director.  Mumm-Hill is excited to support MAI’s mission of connecting people to the natural world through education, service, career development, and research. Throughout her career, she has witnessed the power of nature to inspire individuals and communities to become good stewards to the earth and to one another.

Mumm-Hill has a long history of leading nonprofit organizations implementing immersive programs that deepen career-connected learning.  She grew FIRST Robotics programs in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska by establishing urban and rural opportunities for students to enter the innovation economy. As the Vice President of Learning Experiences at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, she led the camps, education, outreach, research, and exhibit design teams.  Her expertise lies in promoting inclusive and accessible project-based learning experiences, which focus on developing skills and mindsets needed to thrive in a rapidly changing society.

“Deb’s experience and skill set elevated her application to the top of a highly competitive pool of candidates. We are excited to have her lead Mt. Adams Institute into its second decade of operations. She has a great team of staff and board members to work with as we seek to expand our organizational impact,” states Elizabeth Holmes Gaar, Mt. Adams Institute Board President.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to become a member of the MAI team. I am impressed with the organization’s vision and the dedicated MAI staff who enthusiastically engage students, veterans, and community members in meaningful experiences that develop awareness and an interest in the natural environment. I’m beyond excited to have the chance to work and live every day amidst the majestic beauty of Mt. Adams and to become part of the Trout Lake / Gorge community,” says Mumm-Hill.

Mumm-Hill’s start date is March 1st. MAI looks forward to welcoming her to our community.

Dalton using Mini crane machine to clear brush and debris in the forest

What a Year!

What a year this has been so far! Throughout my internship, I have been exposed to so many new learning opportunities. My position had a slow start, but as my qualifications began stacking up, so did the availability of work I was able to do. A large majority of what I have done was regular upkeep of recreation sites and trailheads; this included a lot of mowing, weed eating, and cleaning, but I was also able to get a lot of trail time. At the Redbird district, my position has been somewhat of a jack of all trades. Among my regular duties, I have had the ability to work with felling and bucking up trees, fixing roads, working with timber sales, working with various types of heavy-duty equipment, and even gaining some experience as a repairman. Throughout my internship, I was able to gather a wealth of knowledge and experience to put toward a career. The experience I have gotten here isn’t just career experience though – there is an abundance of life experience that comes with it.

Vetswork has allowed me to gather an arsenal of qualifications, which make me a more qualified candidate for a career in this field of work. I have been able to work in timber, recreation/RHELM, wildlife, fire, and even a little bit of engineering. With the spread of work I have done, I’ve managed to meet quite a few great people. The networking I have experienced has led to many opportunities sent my way. Aside from being able to find the opportunities, the program has elements built into it that sets you up for success. The workshop on federal resumes and navigating USAjobs was by far one of the best things to help me on the right path. There are also resources available to you within the Forest Service that will put your resume out there for you and assist you in finding placement.

Dalton using a tool to combat a small, active fire

After my internship I am hoping to land a job with the district I am currently at. The position that just became available is an Integrated Resource Technician. This position would open a few new paths to me, mostly on the timber side, but I’d mostly be in the same type of role I have been in throughout this internship. However, if I don’t land a full-time job it sounds like there will be some seasonal jobs I can step into. This will allow me to hopefully get more qualifications and make my resume all the more appealing still.

VetsWork: Not Everyone is Made for the Woods, and that’s OKAY!

Some people are good at marketing, landscaping, masonry, finance, etc., and some people are good at communication, organization and all things administrative. Hello, my name is Heather Vaughan. I entered the VetsWork AmeriCorps program in April of 2016 in conjunction with my retirement from the Air Force. The program supported my transition back into the civilian world and was a wonderful catalyst for career transitioning. During the last 15 years of my military career I had been in an office the majority of the time, doing shift work, as required by my jobs. The VetsWork internship sounded like a good opportunity to break away from the desk and return to nature and the outdoor experience I had grown to miss. I underestimated just how outdoorsy it would require me to be though. The daily tick checks and hornet scares definitely put a damper on my desire to go hiking and exploring during my own personal time. And, to my surprise, I missed the office. I missed planning and organizing for events, interacting with people, and generally helping out through the administrative skills I had gained over a lifetime. Luckily my supervisor and Mt. Adams Institute program coordinator recognized that I was much more of an asset manned with a computer and telephone than I was with a Pulaski and radio.

 

My new office on the Pisgah National Forest.

 

The internship gave me a great perspective about what I’m good at; communicating with the public, planning, and organizing. Of course I could be good at surveying, trail maintenance, fire suppression support and all the recreation technician jobs the forestry has to offer, but I prefer to work at something that comes natural to me. That is why I was very happy to take a job as a customer service representative for the Forest Service. Advocating for the environment while assisting the public is right up my alley and the VetsWork internship really allowed me to explore other career options while still being true to my skill set. Not everyone has to be a fire fighter or recreation tech. I’m very happy with a new career in which I will still be able to enjoy nature at my leisure and engage with the public on behalf of the environment. This last year I learned, and wanted to share with others, that you need to be true to your character, recognize what you enjoy doing, and just go for it.

Hanging out at Wiseman’s View overlooking Hawksbill Mountain.

VetsWork: A Fork In The Trail

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As I sit here writing my final blog five days before Christmas, I can’t help but be amazed at how fast this year as a VetsWork AmeriCorps member has passed.  With only a month and some change left in my term, it seems like yesterday I was in Las Vegas receiving the phone call with great news.  What started as a job with little or no experience and only a degree has blossomed into an invaluable learning experience that I am so fortunate to have had.

Not only have I gained more experience in the natural resources field, I have undergone the learning experience that is the federal application and hiring process. Positions have come up here and there that I have applied to through USAJobs.  A quote comes to mind from a forestry graduate student of my school (Southern Illinois University) when I was volunteering to plant native trees in a city park. He said, “It seems like every time I apply to a federal job, it’s always that 100th application that gets through”.  As a student with the dream of work someday, this was rather discouraging. However, as I have learned here, there are people who can vouch for you based on your work ethic, dedication, and integrity; who can make that process less cumbersome and more successful. Although I haven’t yet been picked up for a position, I really get the feeling they care when the Forest Supervisor tells me to add him as a reference, and the Deputy District Ranger asks me if I would share my resume and transcripts.   My point is: they really do look out for you here, and that is a good feeling.

One other bit of good news, and a relief cushion, is my forest has found the funds to keep me on as a VetsWork member for another year—in the event I don’t receive a permanent position.  This is really good news to me because I can continue to build my resume and gain experience without being pinned down with a single, dedicated title.

Since my last blog, I have continued some of the projects I have been working on throughout my internship.  Trail rating has been put on hold at the moment because we bought a tablet to take trail surveys, and they are in the process of putting a program called eTRACS on it.  eTRACS is basically a software tool used to collect trail survey data that can then be uploaded into Natural Resources Manager (NRM or INFRA). This will be used by me on the trail, and my rating spreadsheet will be on the tablet as opposed to a paper version. Although trail rating is on hiatus, that hasn’t kept me out of the woods.  I continue to go out and conduct wilderness monitoring.

Wilderness Monitoring in the Panther's Den Wilderness

Wilderness Monitoring in the Panther’s Den Wilderness

I finished the recreation site analysis project I had been working on during the summer.  Now our INFRA database can be updated with the proper data from each recreation site on the forest.  I also became wildland fire chainsaw certified since my last blog.  This consisted of two days in the class and one in the field to be graded on ability to fell, buck, and limb trees. Although it was really cold that day, I had a great time.  One of the biggest additions to my experience list is working with our Lands Department.  Here I have gained experience in special use permits and easements, inspecting permit sites, and even attended a walk-around on a property that the Forest Service is in the process of purchasing.  It’s really interesting looking through some of the old land documents and microfiche.  Some date back to the late 1800’s when times were simpler and people had a different, yet cordial way of speaking.

In disbelief that this year is almost over, I reflect back on everything I’ve learned and the people I have met. This has been nothing but a good, wholesome experience. Now that I am at the end, I have the chance to do it again, pursue a permanent position, or anything else; that is the fork in my trail.  The sky’s the limit really. I would like to thank everyone here on the Shawnee National Forest for taking me in and being so welcoming, as well as the staff at Mt. Adams Institute for structuring such a great program for us military veterans. Sure some complain about the pay, but the experience both professional and personal make up for a limited budget in so many ways.
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VetsWork: Top 5 Reasons Why My Job Had A Huge Impact

Jarret Griesemer

1. I directly supported forest health assessments on 806 acres.

Forests dominate much of the King County landscape, covering two-thirds of the land area. – King County Rural Forest Commission

Forest health assessment for private forest landowner.Forest health assessment for private forest landowner.

2. I helped to develop stewardship plans that will place approximately 1,020 acres of public land under active stewardship in Snoqualmie, Bothell, and Shoreline.  

About 619,000 acres of forestland in King County are in public ownership.  – King County Rural Forest Commission

Community volunteer at forest restoration event in Snoqualmie, WA.Community volunteer at forest restoration event in Snoqualmie, WA.

3. In a little over 10 months, I helped 3 rural forest landowners to complete comprehensive forest management plans. This will place 5 more acres under active forest management, adding to the over 16,600 acres already participating in King County’s Forestry Program.

There are over 6,000 small forest landowners with holdings of four acres or larger and thousands more who own “backyard forests” on smaller lots. – King County Rural Forest Commission

Forest site visit on Vashon Island with King County Forester, Kristi McClelland

Forest site visit on Vashon Island with King County Forester, Kristi McClelland

4. I educated 351 community members and students about environmental topics, including forest health and restoration, for a total of 1,382 hours.

The three greatest threats to native biodiversity in King County (and most places) are development and associated fragmentation and loss of habitat, invasive species, and climate change (not necessarily in that order). – King County

Volunteers from local Girl Scout troop helping remove invasive blackberry bushes in Snoqualmie, WA.

Volunteers from local Girl Scout troop helping remove invasive blackberry bushes in Snoqualmie, WA.

5. I worked with community volunteers to install 2 Hügelkultur garden mounds that will provide 400 square feet of community garden space.

As a growing portion of the urban open space network, community gardens and gardeners are contributing to land preservation, access to open space, and sustainable uses of usually otherwise vacant land.  – University of Washington

Installing a Hügelkultur garden mound with DigginShoreline in Shoreline, WA.

Installing a Hügelkultur garden mound with DigginShoreline in                   Shoreline, WA.

Picture Quiz – Can you guess if it’s an Urban or Backcountry Forest?
Urban forests in King County are beautiful and often times indistinguishable from backcountry forests. Answers at the bottom.

1. One is from the City of Snoqualmie and one is from the Olympic National Forest. Which is urban forest?

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2. One is from the City of Bothell and one is from the Olympic National Forest. Which is urban forest?

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3. One is from the City of Redmond and one is from the Olympic National Forest. Which is urban forest?

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4. One is from the City of Seattle and one is from the Dome Valley in New Zealand. Which is urban forest?

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ANSWERS: (1) A (2) A (3) B (4) B

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Public Lands Stewards: Not Your Average Business Trip

ellie-demarseI recently had the amazing opportunity to spend two weeks in sunny California…for work! My AmeriCorps Public Lands Stewards position at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery involves Latino outreach and Spanish/English translations, and what better place to research bilingual outreach than southern California? My wonderful supervisor, Julia, worked with a couple of Fish and Wildlife employees and partners in CA to set up my trip. The main goal of the trip was to gain exposure to well-established bilingual programming and apply what I learned to future bilingual programs at the Hatchery. I could write a novel about all of the neat things I learned and cool people I met on my trip, but I’ll just give you the highlights…

Otter Selfie at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Otter Selfie at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

My trip began in Monterey, CA. While there, I spent two days shadowing educators at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I got to see programs for a variety of ages, from preschool through high school. I especially enjoyed watching the preschool programs. Preschoolers are great to work with, because everything you tell them absolutely blows their minds. Aquarium staff introduced the preschoolers to different ocean habitats and the creatures that live in those “homes.” The kids got to see (and sometimes touch) different plants and animals that live in coastal habitats, and it was amazing for me to see the wonder in their eyes and their excitement at feeling a slimy kelp leaf or a rough abalone shell. The best part about this preschool program was that it was entirely bilingual. Most of the students were learning Spanish at home and English at school, so the aquarium staff smoothly switched between the two languages to help the kids learn new vocabulary in both English and Spanish. I plan to use this style of interpretation in future tours that I give at the Hatchery!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

After enjoying a few days with the otters and beaches of Monterey, it was time for the next leg of my trip–San Diego! I spent a week exploring the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex and learning about the challenges faced by urban wildlife refuges. The Complex consists of three urban refuges, and each refuge faces its own unique set of challenges.

The San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is entirely surrounded by the city of San Diego and the San Diego Bay. The site is an important place for migratory birds, but the refuge’s proximity to a large city can make it challenging to maintain a healthy, natural ecosystem.

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Tijuana Slough NWR is close to the border with Mexico along the Tijuana River. This refuge is situated between two large cities–San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. Both nature and pollutants do not recognize international borders, so the refuge is affected by both. Because Mexico and the United States have different environmental policies, it can be difficult to manage this type of refuge without communication and cooperation on both sides of the border.

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

The third refuge in the Complex is the San Diego NWR. This is a large, noncontiguous refuge outside of the city. San Diego NWR has many access points, making it difficult for staff to enforce NWR regulations and monitor trail usage.

My trip to San Diego taught me that urban refuge management must focus on managing the people that impact the refuge and not just the plants and animals on the refuge itself. My experience at the San Diego Refuge Complex has inspired me to seek future employment in the urban refuge system.

I feel lucky that I had the chance to experience so many interesting things on my trip. I want to send a HUGE thank-you to my supervisor and all of the other people who helped make this trip happen!

Rosy Boa Selfie at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Rosy Boa Selfie at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

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VetsWork: Reflecting On This Year

Mike BishopThe last time I had written one of these blogs I was preparing for my transfer to the Crescent Ranger District in July. Now as I write my final blog of the year, I have less than a month left in the program. It’s gone by fast to say the least. Someone who does not have a passion for natural resource management cannot last in a program as demanding as this one. But, if you do have that passion and can somehow make it to the end, there are ample opportunities for you afterwards.

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Many have already left this program with job offers, some have been made offers afterwards, and others are looking forward to continuing their education in the New Year. If someone were to tell you this program offers nothing but a monthly paycheck below minimum wage, they’d be lying to you. Putting job offers and prospects to the side, this program allowed me to gain invaluable on the job training with the Forest Service. I have acquired new qualifications that only seasoned employees can gain, and yet I have never technically been employed by the federal government. I have been to the majority of all our recreation sites on the forest, while many seasonal employees are usually restricted to working on their designated districts. I have had the opportunity of meeting new people I am happy to call co-workers and friends. I have gained the vast knowledge of the outdoors surrounding my community in Central Oregon. All in all, I come out of this with a better understanding of where I am currently and where I want to go in the future.

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Confidence is the feeling you have before walking into a situation without fully understanding it. When I started this program in February, I knew very little, if anything at all, about what was in store for me and where I was going. As General George Patton said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week”, and with that aphorism, I went for it. I jumped on an opportunity that looked promising, and I had nothing to rely on but my gut feeling. As I look back at this year, on both professional and personal aspects, this has been a very good year for me. I have surpassed my own self-expectations and come out of this program as a better person.

For future interns of this program, I pass on the same advice I was given when I started that I did not always follow. Take the initiative. Don’t wait for anyone to set goals for you, only you can do that. Don’t be afraid to reach across the hall and befriend a co-worker not in your department, you’ll need them someday. Be very outspoken. General Patton also said “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking”; you’ll encounter this on a daily basis when working in bureaucracy. Walk in to every situation with confidence, and yet don’t be afraid to ask questions. When given a task to complete, show with proper certainty that you will complete it, look to others for guidance; but the course on how you will achieve it is ultimately yours to form and follow.

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On a closing note, the greatest reward this program has brought me was the reestablished faith in the men and women who served, and who continue to serve this country. After serving in Afghanistan and the years that followed it, I became disenfranchised with the state of our country. I sunk into the same depression that has become an epidemic with our military veterans. We carry a great burden that the rest of society does not. We have been faced with many truths that some will never see in their lifetimes. We are bound to a binding and resilient moral code others are not. The future of this country lies within our veterans. We all have made sacrifices most civilians will choose to never make. Some veterans have left this Earth and can no longer tell their stories. We have an unwritten oath to continue their legacy so they may never be forgotten. It is our responsibility to carry on the fight and make this country a better one for them and for all of us.

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VetsWork: Heritage Work on the Monongahela National Forest

Nathan DameronThe summer field season has been a blur of activity, and although I have periodically checked up on other blogs, composing my next contribution to the Mt. Adams blog has been one of the furthest things from my mind.  In consideration of these facts, I present to you a photo blog of heritage work on the Monongahela National Forest.

Deteriorating historic infrastructure. West Virginia has always been a “resource extraction” state, and many buildings tell the tale of past boom times.

Deteriorating historic infrastructure. West Virginia has always been a “resource extraction” state, and many buildings tell the tale of past boom times.

Multiple civil war forts provide glimpses back in time

Multiple civil war forts provide glimpses back in time.

Limestone and Sandstone have created multiple rock shelters on the Monongahela. Shown here is the deluxe two level variety. These are commonly associated with pre-historic habitation.

Limestone and Sandstone have created multiple rock shelters on the Monongahela. Shown here is the deluxe two level variety.  These are commonly associated with pre-historic habitation.

We had the fortune of being trained by HistoriCorps as part of a project to restore an old cabin on the forest.

We had the fortune of being trained by HistoriCorps as part of a project to restore an old cabin on the forest.

I made this new window ledge. One of many “firsts” for me on the cabin restoration project.

I made this new window ledge. One of many “firsts” for me on the cabin restoration project.

Can you spot the preservation opportunity?

Can you spot the preservation opportunity?

Positive feedback when we cut back the overgrown vegetation at this site was immediate. We received multiple visitors while we worked.

Positive feedback when we cut back the overgrown vegetation at this site was immediate. We received multiple visitors while we worked.

The final photos are before and after shots of a project I had the opportunity of leading.  Although it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite project of the summer, this vegetation cleanup project was hands down the most fulfilling.  Not only did this put to active use the chainsaw training I had received earlier in the summer, it also provided a unique partnership opportunity with a group that has opposed other aspects of forest service work in the region.

In other words, we did not let our difference of opinions preclude us from working together on common goals.  Although this is wisdom that can always bear repeating, it seems even timelier given the current political climate in the country, and was definitely heartening to me.  Now with just over three months left in my internship, it’s time to see about turning these experiences into a job.

A regional meeting with other VetsWork interns included a train ride!

A regional meeting with other VetsWork interns included a train ride!

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VetsWork: Lessons Learned

Heather VaughanThe first advice my supervisor ever gave me was to “Never separate yourself from your food”.  While I attributed this partly to her being six months pregnant, I didn’t give it much thought until we made a quick trip to Linville Falls, which turned into a four hour endeavor including a waterfall hike. I probably could have enjoyed the scenic route a lot more if I had taken more than almonds and wasn’t hangry. Needless to say, I quickly developed a habit of always having food on my person for the day-to-day adventures the internship took me on.

Painting land lines with a back pack full of snacks.

Painting landlines, doing trail maintenance, and all the other responsibilities that came along with making the forest people friendly felt like drudgery the first few months. And I will say that I had a major hang-up at the beginning of my internship with the majority of the work being done so that people would have more and easier access to Federal land. But I learned everything we did was to keep people from destroying what they eagerly wanted to see; waterfalls, overlooks, wilderness, etc. All those functions of mowing, brushing, blazing, and weed-eating made for wider trails, foot bridges, and the maintained campsites that helped guide the community into the areas that they would create the least impact on the environment.

Old Catawba Falls crossing

New Catawba Falls footbridge

My fellow forest service members have talked about how, probably because of social media, the amount of people coming into the forest has increased dramatically in the last few years. This is good and bad. People want to connect with nature, share it with their children, but at the same time it’s hard to practice Leave No Trace when you have to step off the trail to let a family of 10 pass you by. It’s all about making a sustainable ecotourism environment, though. If people are not connected with nature then they are not going to support it…which in the long run means bye-bye funding. This has been a very important lesson for me. So I decided not to kick everyone out of the woods and after a long summer of campground maintenance, trash collection and mowing, I am happy to share the notion that everyone should be in the forest. People NEED to experience it for their own well-being and the investment future generations can help make in it.

Hopefully after my internship I can continue to support the interaction between communities and their environments in the most economical and conservative way.

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VetsWork: 1000 Hours In and a Month to Go. Finishing Strong.

Verna Gonzales

Over 1000 hours in and we are a little more than one month away from the end of the internship. The summer has been somewhat of a blur, but I am happy to announce that the job search has commenced and a few of those positions have been referred to the hiring manager. Just waiting on the phone call (s)… In the meantime, Tony has in store TONS of back country overnight trips which will test my physical strength, endurance, and definitely the knees.

img_20160707_113647Hells Canyon in early summer with a thunderstorm rolling in.

The views have been amazing and the people I’ve connected with are becoming bittersweet because I know I’ll have to leave soon to pursue my career and education. Let the good times roll, as the song says. I’m working hard, but hardly feel its effects as it is work that I am genuinely enjoying. The training experiences have been phenomenal. One included learning how to restore and repair historic windows.

img_20160624_064709Historic Window Training

The number one most treasured thing about the internship is being able to get a first-hand glimpse at the work involved in this Archeology position with the Forest Service. I can pick and choose the sides I like and the sides I do not like, and am able to make a clearer decision on the next steps I’ll be taking. Today I will be taking steps to help my strength and stamina for next week’s back-country trip (I’m just going on a 2 hour hike after work). Next month I will be taking tons of GIS classes to help grow my knowledge base in the technology needed for this position. Next year I hope to enroll at Adams State University for their Master’s program in Cultural Resource Management.

img_20160824_170505Mormon Flat Cabin Circa estimated early 1900s

My supervisor, Tony, has been an awesome mentor and I cannot thank him enough for putting up with all my questions. Which reminds me, for those future interns: Ask as many questions as you can possibly think of! I’m getting quite comfortable with mapping, the pace and compass method, using GPS technology, and my overall map reading skills have definitely seen some improvement. On the personal side, I was able to receive guests this summer which helped boost my mood ten-fold. Seeing familiar faces and introducing them to a little slice of heaven was definitely needed!

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