I am now halfway through my internship as a forestry technician with the Conasauga Ranger District. I spent the first three months assigned to one of the three main crews: recreation, timber, and wildlife. During those periods, I worked more closely with each crew learning the job responsibilities of each and gaining experience that would help develop my skills and knowledge required of a forestry technician. Additionally, I worked to obtain paramount training and certificates to allow my participation in performing the daily tasks. For instance, becoming chainsaw certified allowed me to take part in clearing blowdowns on Forest Service roads, cutting trees for fish structures and clearing hazard trees in camping areas. No matter what crew I worked with, the chainsaw certificate was vital to allowing me to provide better assistance and gain valuable experience.
After gaining experience in the duties of the recreation, timber, and wildlife crews, I have been working with each crew in areas where they need assistance from day to day, while continuing to learn and gain new skills. This summer has been filled with fun projects and hard work. With timber, I have applied pesticide treatment to over a thousand eastern hemlock trees to protect them from the hemlock woolly adelgid, marked timber for a thinning sale, and a participated in a habitat enhancement-thinning project. With wildlife, I have so far emplaced two fish structures on a trout stream, drove a tractor to bush hog several wildlife openings, operated a backhoe while building fish structures with Trout Unlimited volunteers, assisted in the conduct of a six-week black bear study by collecting hair from barbwire snares and recording data, and felled trees for a future fish structure project. With recreation, I have assisted in the interior construction of a cabin for campground hosts, built a ramp for an OHV trail head with YCC members, hiked backcountry wilderness trails to assess trails, dispersed camp site use, and interact with users, assisted in the weekly cleaning of campgrounds and recreation areas, and taken water samples to monitor drinking water quality at campgrounds. With all of the crews, I helped clear many blown down trees on Forest Service roads and wildlife openings. To add to my training, this past week I attended a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) course. This course gave me a better appreciation and understanding of the process that the Forest Service goes through to ensure all projects are properly vetted to ensure the least impact to the environment and allowed for public input.
I look forward to the second half of my internship here on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, with the Conasauga Ranger District. My goal is to continue learning everything I can to assist me in gaining future employment with the Forest Service. I am fortunate to work with a really great group of professionals who are helpful and fun to work with. My advice to any veteran who has an interest in working to preserve, protect, and conserve natural resources and the environment or who may just love working outdoors in a fulfilling job, is to seek to obtain an internship through the Mt. Adams Institute. The VetsWork program is a great opportunity to develop new skills and gain invaluable experience to add to your resume. VetsWork will help provide you an opportunity to show your value and work ethic so that you may find permanent employment with the Forest Service or any other federal lands management agency you may apply to.
I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with Colin at the native plant nursery in the Laguna Canyon Wilderness Park, in Laguna, California. I was ever so pleased to share what I knew with Colin who was always an eager learner and participant in every task that we encountered. He is a delightful, bright, energetic and kind person. I wish him the best of success as he pursues his dream of working in the wilds and working with people. I hope that even more vets will follow in his footsteps. I wish him the very best.