VetsWork: Coalition of Hope-Everyone’s a Member

by | VetsWork

The first photo in the gallery below is taken from one of my favorite sites rich with ecological diversity: Big Lake West Campground located on the McKenzie River Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest in beautiful Oregon. The presence of ecological disturbances ranging from fires and volcanic activity to glacial movement and forest growth and decomposition tell a story rich in natural history. I felt as if I had traveled in time witnessing millions of years of natural changes as the sun settled over Mt. Washington. Breathless and timeless I look forward to the encounter again!

This site, like most I have had the unique opportunity to survey for accessibility in the Willamette and Siuslaw NF, has changed me.   It has also allowed me to experience what I can only imagine is God’s Love. I have witnessed life happening when standing on a mossy rock as the river washes nutrients from decaying debris downstream weathering parent material for soils hundreds, if not thousands, of years from now that will one day reach the valley floor and provide a fertile foundation for plants to grow and homes for people to live. This internship has helped me see from an ecological standpoint every movement of energy across the natural landscape is intentional and divine.

I have a theory that when collecting data in the field, every site has a theme, and to collect efficiently we have to figure out the pattern; even if chaos is the pattern. The more my studies engulf me into ecological thinking I see the pattern humans have within the natural world as well as the overall necessity for stewardship. In turn, this stewardship will promote meaningful connections with the natural world for everyone; because once we see the beautiful chaos in nature we might be able to recognize it in our own lives. More importantly is to realize that connection of self with nature is Love, Divine Love.

Getting in Touch with Nature

On my travels across worlds of diverse ecosystems surveying in the Coastal and Cascade Mountain Ranges, the Oregon Dunes, and across various aspects of the Willamette, McKenzie, Santiam, Alsea, and Nestucca watersheds, I have seen interesting wildlife. Most the time I cannot take a picture as I am traveling in rough mountain terrain across steep canyons, or I am, well, working. However, this time I got a shot of what appears to be a black fox. The camp host claimed there would be one, and lucky me, there sure was!

Ecological Restoration with Mt. Adams Institute

Over the last several months VetsWork interns met quarterly for training, community service activities, and overall assessment of the cohort. This is a time where we gather and share experiences from the field, receive professional member development training, and have unique opportunity to support each other through group activities. One of the group activities that really help everyone break off the rust from ‘independent duty’ to collaborating is community service.

The light really shined in my friends’ eyes when we all realized the difference we made working together by planting trees in a restored dam site, or building fence for a local nursery that implements fish habitat restoration in the area for the community. Our stewardship activities support current ecological restoration efforts on the White Salmon River in Washington in partnership with community members, Native Peoples, and government agencies. Everyone contributing to these efforts experienced a meaningful connection with nature through the community service activities while learning how to integrate new skills learned in the field. The stewardship activities align with the MAI mission but also support each other’s growth to becoming a natural resource professional.