VetsWork: Special Uses on the Mt. Hood National Forest

by | VetsWork

Hey everyone! I hope all are doing well.

Things have been pretty awesome here on the Mt. Hood National Forest. The summers are amazing here with long sunny days and open skies. My job is in special uses, and special uses is a fun thing to be involved in.

One category of special uses is film permits. Many businesses throughout the country take a big notice of how special Mt. Hood is and how perfect it is for making short films. And the best part, I get to go on set for some of the big shoots to ensure environmental compliance. The best commercial so far was the 2018 F-150 commercial. On the set, I got to meet Dan Mindel, the cinematographer for the latest Star Wars and Star Trek movies. I asked him if he knew my uncle, Dick Hansen, who is in the movie business and Mindel said, “You’re uncle is famous!”

It takes a lot of work to process large film requests. I have to discuss proposals with resource specialist to ensure that film proposals do not go against the Forest Service’s mission or policies. Additionally, there is paperwork to do as well as recording special uses in the Special Uses Database System, also known as SUDS.

Another thing that I have been doing is special use permit inspections. I have gone out to inspect permit sites to ensure permit holders are complying with their terms and conditions that are in their permit. The inspections that I have done the most involve the recreation residences. With over 500 recreation residences, Mt. Hood is home to the largest recreation residence program in the country. It has been really neat to have an opportunity to go out and see these cabin sites. The cabins are surrounded by an incredible array of fauna, trees, and wild streams.

Another thing I get to do at the recreation residences is to inspect hazardous trees. Recreation residence permit holders cannot just cut down any tree they want. While the cabins belong to the permit holders, the land itself is on Forest Service land. So if a tree appears to be dangerous, the permit holders send requests to the Forest Service to gain permission to remove those trees. That is where I get to come in. I am now hazard tree certified. I take the requests and go out to the cabin sites to verify that the trees that are requested to be removed should be removed. Sometimes it is an easy approval and other times I seek advice from an expert to make a decision.

The forest resources are extremely important and we do not want to move trees that did not need to be removed. Of course, our permit holders’ safety is extremely important as well. Hazard trees can be extremely dangerous. One tree fell down last year in Mt. Hood and caused a cabin to implode. The tree was over 200 feet tall and sent pieces of wood and glass flying in all directions. If you saw the site, you would think a bomb went off.

My biggest project that I have been working on is mapping the special use permits. I have been working with the GIS specialist to develop a special uses permit map. Currently, Mt. Hood does not have one map that shows where all the special use permits are. A map will help the forest to make decisions on which roads should be maintained and which roads should be decommissioned. Decommissioning roads is a way for the forest service to reduce their maintenance costs. But the Forest Service does not want to accidently decommission a road that gives access to a special use permit. Right now there is no easy way to find out what roads may have access to a special use permit. A map will change that. A special uses map will also allow the Forest Service to protect the improvements of special use permits during emergencies such as fires. Furthermore, a special uses map will allow the Forest Service to plan inspection routes and give them a way to inspect multiple special uses permits in one trip rather than multiple trips.

So far my experience on the Mt. Hood National Forest has been fantastic. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that Mt. Adams Institute has given to me and other veterans.