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: “It’s the people’s forest, we just manage it”

Mike Bishop

As I departed Sisters this past Monday to start working in Crescent, I thought about all the people I’ve encountered and the experiences I’ve gathered since I first started this internship in February. I have gained more invaluable lessons in the first five months than I had gained in one season working for the Maryland State Parks. Splitting up my time between the Sisters and Crescent Ranger Districts has allowed me to gain twice the amount of knowledge and experience.

Three Creek Lake

The agency’s Special Uses program authorizes uses on National Forest System (NFS) land providing a benefit to the general public and protecting public and natural resources values. Currently, there are over 74,000 authorizations on the NFS lands for over 180 types of uses.

Sisters Stampede, over 500 mountain biker race under special use permit

When I started the internship in February I was handed the task of reissuing multiple land use permits on the District. The expired permits included multiple uses such as access roads to private property, signs, water spring systems, research studies, waste transfer stations, clubs, a church and a cabin encroachment. The land use feature of Special Uses has been by far the most enjoyable aspect of my work. My motto has always been it’s the people’s forest, we (the Forest Service) just manage it. It is possible to have a multitude of various user experiences on the forest through due diligence and plenty of NEPA (the National Environment Policy Act).

Spring near Canyon Creek

During my time on the Sisters Ranger District, I was able to successfully reissue over twenty expired permits. Along with the expired land use permits reissuance, I was also given the opportunity to process and monitor recurring recreation event permits along with a brand new outfitter and guide permit and still photography permit. It is very rewarding to be able to help individuals or businesses develop their ideas into fruition.

Metolius River

As a Special Uses administrator, through constant contact with your permit holders and by sorting through correspondence paperwork and documents in files that sometimes date back over 75 years or more, you gain a significant awareness of the historical nature and importance of the position. It is a unique and vital puzzle piece of the entire agency. I have been very humbled and privileged to have been part of the Special Uses program on the Deschutes National Forest.

Welcome Sign near D Wight Observatory

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Odell Lake, outside of Crescent

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VetsWork: On the Road – The Portable Mike Bishop

Mike Bishop

This path I have chosen has been both a professional and personal undertaking. When it comes to committing yourself to a new agency, new surroundings and a new way of life, there are many unknowns that come with it. Taking that leap of faith was the very first step I had to take in order to begin this journey with Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) and the U.S. Forest Service.

I stumbled upon MAI’s webpage one cold afternoon in western Maryland by chance. The job listing was for a one year internship with the Deschutes National Forest in Sisters and Crescent, Oregon. Without hesitation, I applied for the position right away.

I was greeted with a phone call from Katie Schmidt, MAI’s recruitment coordinator, within several hours after applying for VetsWork AmeriCorps. She showed interest in my application and we eventually arranged an interview with the Deschutes National Forest. My interview for the Special Uses position was facilitated by Meria Page, Sommer Moyer and Bill Munro. I was greeted with professionalism, character and kindness as I spoke to the three on the phone. After the phone interview, I had a better understanding of what they were seeking and what the expectations were.

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I waited several days to hear word on the results. I still recall the moment when I finally heard back from Katie. I was rejoiced to hear I was offered the position with the Deschutes National Forest. After the phone call, I began to map out how I was going to get from Maryland to Oregon within a two week time period.

Within days, I had sold my old Jeep Wrangler; a cherished possession I held which served no practical purpose whatsoever outside of Bel Air, MD. I decided to pathways with it; opting for a more suitable four wheeled friend, a Subaru Outback. I gave away furniture, sold items that had some trace of monetary value, and began to store away personal possessions in brown storage boxes.

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I was slated to begin my cross-country expedition on Monday, February 1st. I packed up the car the day prior. Once I was finished, I sat down and contemplated what was going to happen next. It had been several years since I first read a Jack Kerouac book. Would my journey west be as exhilarating and picturesque as I thought it would have been when I was seventeen? Would the car I bought, which sat in the driveway for barely just one week, even make it a quarter of the way there? What type of unforeseen events could arise along a strip of road 3,000 miles long? I was jumping off a cliff.

On the first night of the journey, I had reached the state of Iowa. It occurred to me, that late night, what significance February 1st held. It was on that very day, in 1905 when the management of the once called Forest Reserves were transferred from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. This new agency was to be called the Forest Service, and the Forest Reserves scattered across this land were eventually renamed National Forests. It was nice slice of fate that my departure coincided with such a momentous date.

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I successfully completed the drive to Oregon that week on time, with no delays. After driving for a week, I was finally rewarded with the Mt. Adams team as well as the fellow interns who chose the same path as I did. After a successful week orientation, I was finally on my way to Sisters, Oregon. On my first day, I was greeted with firm handshakes and warm welcomes. My supervisor, Sommer Moyer, made it her mission to provide me with the materials and resources needed in order to tackle the challenging, but rewarding work of Special Uses. As the days went by, her kindness and passion for her work shined through. I am proud to call her a mentor and friend now.

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My favorite aspect of Special Uses is having the opportunity to meet interesting entrepreneurs who want to hold events on Forest Service Lands. I love seeing the interaction and connection that the Forest has with the local communities and people it serves. I am currently tackling a project to re-issue expired land and recreation permits. By accomplishing this large task, I am able to see the entire process of issuing a permit from start to finish.

Another exceptional aspect of this internship is that it provides me with opportunities to broaden my overall experience by allowing me to work with other specialists outside of the Special Uses office. I had the opportunity to suit up in waders for three days with our fish biologists Nate Dachtler and Mike Riehle; participating in the annual Chinook Salmon Fry releases.

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So far, it’s been quite the experience; to say the least. It’s been a fascinating, challenging and rewarding process. The knowledge and skills I will gain this year will stay with me for a lifetime. My time that will be spent in Sisters, and Crescent later in the year, will always be with me and cherished forever. I am blessed to be working with a team of exceptional and passionate experts, in a place that defines beauty.

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