So much has happened since I started working with the Mt. Adams Institute (MAI). My first experience with MAI was with the Public Lands Steward (PLS) program in 2013 and I am now in my third year with the VetsWork program. It continues to be such a rewarding experience for me both personally and professionally. On-the-job experience as well as new skills have made me into a far more confident prospect for work with a land management agency. Though I can’t help, but to curiously look at the bigger picture of our world and my place in it. One thing is certain, I love being in nature and so does this community in/around Trout Lake, Washington
This is my second year working on the Mt. Adams Ranger District as, both, an intern for the Mt. Adams Institute doing graphic design/social media and with the US Forest working with developed recreation. The two sides of this unique internship make for a very spoiling work balance.
Three days out of the week I am sharing blogs (like this one!), making flyers, managing our facebook and instagram accounts as well as making videos from time to time. This is a lot fun for anyone who enjoys being creative and sharing the beauty of the natural world. The work I support at the MAI office is not just needed, but very rewarding and I’m honored to be a part of so many new chapters for our interns, past and present. The staff here at MAI makes our day-to-day work so much fun. We meet weekly to stay on top of each programs varying schedules and their related tasks. We’re privileged to have a really solid team of great human beings who go above and beyond to make sure our interns have the support they need to be successful.
2015 PNW VetsWork Graduation – Family, friends, members & staff.
Two days out of the week I am geared up and ready for almost anything nature can throw my way. The work with developed recreation varies with the seasons and currently we’ve been making the switch from servicing Snoparks to day-use areas, trails and campgrounds. On one day I may be cleaning outhouses. Another, I might be rerouting a trail with a crew of hard working inmates from the nearby counties and yet another day I might be on my own, scouting a trail for future log out (trial clearing). It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, cold or just mentally a tough day… I always make sure to look at the beauty that is all around me. It is ever present for those that take the time to notice. It may not be quantifiable data or even be directly connected to the project you’re working on, but if I wanted to have tunnel vision just for the work, I would be robbing myself of the perks of working in nature. Observing the wildlife, weather and changes in the forests further connects me to mother nature and those who love her.
Sense of Place
Lately I’ve been reading Chief Joseph: The Biography of A Great Indian by Chester Anders Fee. It was published in 1936 and though I had plenty of modern alternatives to choose from, I went with this older and spend-ier hard back. Perhaps it was the magic of the oldest bookstore in Oregon, Klindts Booksellers (open since 1870) that drew me deeper into our local US history, the forming of the Oregon Trail and the heartbreaking removal/genocide of almost all natives tribes from this country.
While learning the gritty details of the mixing of these two very different cultures, settlers and the tribes, I can’t help but feel like part of the story when I am here in the very region where this surreal story unfolded.
I can almost see it; the lively lower waters of the Columbia, Celilo Falls bursting with Salmon and the growing cloud of dust of wagons making their way west on the Oregon Trail. I am especially envious of our members in the Eastern side of Oregon, who might recognize or have even visited some of the historic landmarks mentioned in detail in this book.
The first image in the book gives a stark glimpse of what westward expansion really meant for the Nez Perce and most other tribes in the US during the late 1800’s. A migrating people who lived off the land for thousands of years saw these immigrants arrive [quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]”as a trickle, then a stream, then a flood.”
~Bobbie Conner, Director, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton, OR[/quote]
In the Fall of 1841, 24 immigrants came to Oregon. The next year, 114. In 1843, just two years later, 1000 immigrants came to Oregon.
This period in time is profoundly sad, but an important part of American history nonetheless. When we talk about having a “Sense of Place” and being connected to an area and the communities therein, this story, that of the original inhabitants of this land, is key in understanding how and how not to move forward when it comes to “caring for the land and serving people.”
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] “Why is any of this important now?” [/quote] When we look at what this place was like 200 years ago and what has been developed in a relatively short time, it’s easy to see the reasons for tribal animosity towards any federal land management agency; being removed from their ancestral homes followed by the industrial development of those lands, rivers and streams. Even the treaties of both 1955 and 1963 were never honored. Miners in search of gold entered the Nez Perce reservation by the thousands as soon as six years after the 1963 treaty was signed. That would be more than enough to cause a major conflict should it ever happen to Americans today. A sincere understanding of this, as a rep for any US gov’t agency, is paramount in any land/resource management discussion with Tribes and cannot be understated.
Construction of Bonneville Dam – August 18, 1936
It’s all connected.
The reality of nature is that you cannot single-out and study anything without also studying many other related things. Unfortunately U.S. resource management agencies were formed around that very idea; that you can look at one thing in nature and manage it in total isolation of all of the other elements of an ecosystem. Today, land-management agencies are slowly seeing nature in a more holistic way; reflecting some of what native people were doing hundreds of years ago.
One example of this is the current push from the Wildland Firefighting community around Wenatchee, Washington for more prescribed burns in the spring, thinning the forest to reduce devastating summer fires. Historically this is what the first Oregon Trail settlers arriving in Spring would see entering Oregon, a blue hue of smoke cast over what were then called the Blue Mountains, now the Wallowas. This practice opened the forest floor for hunting, but also made more resilient forests.
Another example of a holistic approach to optimizing natural ecosystems, in my opinion, is the removal of deadbeat dams (dams producing less energy than they’re worth), which immediately opens up everything upstream for the return of salmon. This injection of fish upstream brings untold benefits to those ecosystems deprived of salmon runs since the start of the dam era.
Construction of Condit Dam
[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]PLACE_LINK_HERE[/youtube]
Destruction of Condit Dam
Phew… long blog, eh?
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Starting a career with a land management agency would be an incredible privilege and my mom could finally relax, knowing I can afford my own socks and underwear. But on a serious note, I wrote this blog, not to point fingers or place blame, but to shine a light on how we are writing history every day and I can only hope that our nation keeps this history close to heart as we move forward in caring for the land and serving people, as always “for the greatest good” or as many natives put it “for the seventh generation.”
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