VetsWork: Fun in the Sun…and Shade…and Rain…

Unlike, perhaps, many of my fellow VetsWork interns this year, especially those that gave up stable careers, serving with AmeriCorps was a natural transition for me. I had just recently completed my military service and having made the decision to change careers to the field of conservation and resource management, the VetsWork program was a perfect fit for this switch. Not only would I receive on-the-job training and practical skills, but the exposure, level of involvement, and networking opportunities available to me at the King Conservation District (KCD) are far beyond what I would have expected from an entry-level internship position.

Case in point, during my second week at KCD I had the opportunity to attend the Green Cities Summit in downtown Seattle and rub elbows with some of the big-wigs involved with one of the largest urban forestry initiatives in the country. Nine partner cities were represented in the Seattle area, as well as some of the program leads from Forterra, the organization driving the Green Cities partnerships. Despite many of the attendees having done this type of work for decades, it was clearly obvious the passion was still there for them and they were more than welcoming to a clueless intern hoping to find his place in the world. Suffice it to say, I think I’ve found it.

Never having been one to enjoy the daily 9-5 office grind, my primary motivation for working comes from knowing the work that I do has important lasting effects, and few things are more important than the state of our environment and conserving our natural resources. Learning about the local ecosystems and the way organisms interact and react at different levels has been incredibly interesting, as has seeing the impacts, both positive and negative, our actions can have on these systems. Plus, I get paid to play outside and see awesome microsystems like these hemlocks sprouting from a nurse log, so that’s neat too.

Auburn, WA

Another great thing about this position is the variety of tasks I’ll be responsible for, working on both the Rural and Urban Forest Health Management teams. On the Rural side of the house, the focus is engaging with small forest landowners to provide general restoration education by way of free classes, technical assistance on particular aspects of restoration on a case-by-case basis, and financial assistance via a cost-sharing program to help defray the expenses of more labor-intensive restoration projects. The Urban team works more with empowering cities to become active stewards of their street trees, forested open spaces, and ‘urban backyards’ to enhance green infrastructure within these urban environments. I also have the opportunity, if I so choose, to get involved with the other departments of KCD such as farm planning and management, urban agriculture, and shoreline and riparian restoration. It’s becoming increasingly evident that there will be no threat of boredom for me this year.

As far as parting thoughts go, I don’t have anything too profound to close on quite yet so I’ll simply say that I am so grateful for this opportunity, excited to see what this internship will hold for me, and distract you with some pretty pictures. The first two are from Tiger Mountain in the Issaquah Alps on a rare day of sun during the otherwise dreary Pacific Northwest winter.

View from Tiger Mountain

I feel like these photos capture just how much we’re surrounded by nature; despite our constant expansion and urbanization, our cities often remain small islands of civilization in the grand scheme of things, and it’s hard not to appreciate the scale and beauty of our forests. The next two I took on a recent trip to Vashon Island, where I toured two properties that had old growth forest right in their backyards. To me this just further proves that you don’t have to travel for hours to be immersed in nature, you simply need to know where to look.

Vashon Island

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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