Category Archives: Awards

Forest Service employees on team recognized by EPA award for Drinking Water Partnership

A view of the Blue River Reservoir, located between Finn River and McKenzie Bridge on the Willamette National Forest, Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo (undated file photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 20, 2019) — The Environmental Protection Agency recognized the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest regional fisheries biologist and regional Aquatic and Riparian Effectiveness Monitoring Plan program lead for their contributions as part of a multi-agency federal team that established a now four-year-old partnership to encourage and fund watershed improvement efforts.

James Capurso, Pacific Northwest regional fisheries biologist for the USDA Forest Service, and Christine Hirsch, Pacific Northwest Aquatic and Riparian Effectiveness Monitoring Plan (AREMP) Program Lead, were among six federal employees honored at the 2018 EPA National Honors awards July 10 for Outstanding Leadership in Collaborative Problem Solving, in recognition of their contributions as the Forest Service representatives to the Drinking Water Providers Partnership, of which the EPA and Bureau of Land Management are also members.

Christine Hirsch, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region
Christine Hirsch, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

“I think this is the first time we’ve had a funding partnership which also includes state funding in the mix. This particular partnership also includes non-profits that have been instrumental in reaching out to the municipal water providers,” Hirsch said. “Traditionally, the Forest Service hasn’t partnered very frequently with water providers so this is bringing new partners into the fold to accomplish key restoration work.”

The Drinking Water Providers Partnership is a regional interagency program that protects and restores drinking water quality and native fish habitat within municipal watersheds, benefiting the towns depending upon them for clean, pure water.  A component of the partnership pools agency financial resources to fund restoration projects and outreach efforts within municipal watersheds.

Members of the Drinking Water Providers Partnership regional interagency team.

Mike Brown and Scott Lightcap, from the Bureau of Land Management, and Teresa Kubo and Michelle Tucker, from EPA Region 10, were also recognized as members of the federal team.

The Partnership provides a mechanism for federal, state, local, and several non-government partners to collaboratively evaluate projects and distribute pooled funds towards projects benefiting municipal watersheds, including those  reducing erosion and sedimentation, improving aquatic organism passage, increasing the complexity of habitats in streams and floodplains, addressing contamination or other issues related to legacy mining projects, performing vegetation management, and conducting public outreach and education efforts.

Local partners create the projects and pool resources for action – but if they need additional resources to complete the work, they submit applications for regional funding.

Jim Capurso, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region
Jim Capurso, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

“When we were establishing this partnership, we literally went door to door visiting city and town water providers in the Cascade Mountains and Coast Range,” Capurso said. “Everywhere we went, from the ‘one traffic light towns to the larger cities, water providers were supportive, even excited, about the partnership.”

During its first four years, the Drinking Water Providers partnership has awarded more than $2.3 million in federal, state, and private funding towards watershed restoration, protection and improvement projects in Oregon and Washington.

“It sounds straightforward; like everyone puts their money in, then we pick the projects and write checks. But there are so many rules and limitations on what we use the money for among the various agencies and partners… that’s where a lot of the creative problem-solving comes in.  We rank the projects and determine whose funding can legally be used to support it,” Hirsch said.

Projects on seven national forests, including the Willamette, Umpqua, Wallowa-Whitman, Olympic, Okanogan-Wenatchee, Siuslaw, Gifford Pinchot, and Umatilla National Forests, to protect or improve drinking water supplies in more than a dozen communities (including Walla Walla, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Port Townsend Wash. and Glide, Eugene, Langlois, Cave Junction, Myrtle Point, Lincoln City, and Yachats, Ore.) received funds from partnership in 2019.

In addition to traditional projects, such as infrastructure repair, vegetation planting, and returning large wood to restore water current complexity to streams, some of the 2019 awards funded conservation education efforts:

The Umatilla National Forest and City of Walla Walla received funds for a documentary film on the Mill Creek Municipal Watershed as a drinking water source and how it serves as important wildlife habitat which will be used for education and outreach in the surrounding community.

Cascadia Conservation District partnered with Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on a project to education farmers, tree-fruit growers and viticulturalists in the Wenatchee watershed about best practices for protecting water quality and potentially achieving the Salmon-Safe certification for their products.

And the Olympic National Forest and City of Port Townsend will use some of the funds awarded for protecting the Big and Little Quilcene Rivers through improved sanitation facilities for managing human waste at recreation areas, and signage and even field ranger outreach to inform the public about proper human waste disposal and the dangers presented by fecal contamination of the city’s drinking water supply.

Other funds are allocated for research towards future water quality improvement and watershed protection opportunities.

The partnership awarded a 2019 grant to Trout Unlimited towards developing a GIS model that uses existing data to identify high-impact opportunities for beaver location on the Upper Columbia River. The McKenzie River Trust received funds to research into potential land protection opportunities to protect the drinking water source watershed for the City of Yachats.

More information:

Gallery: The Drinking Water Providers Partnership is a collaboration of the USDA Forest Service Region 6, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Washington Department of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management OR/WA Office, the Geos Institute, and WildEarth Guardians. The floodplain enhancement work on the lower South Fork of the McKenzie River, located on the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, pictured here, was funded in part through funds allocated by the partnership; approximately one third of the funds awarded were from non-Forest Service partners.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region (staff report)

Fivemile-Bell Watershed project selected for Riparian Challenge award

A bird perches on a stump in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

REEDSPORT, Ore. (July 19, 2019) The Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration project has been selected for the 2019 Western Division of the American Fisheries Society (WDAFS) Riparian Challenge Award in the USDA Forest Service category.

The project is located on the Siuslaw National Forest, approximately 10 miles south of Florence, Ore., on the Central Coast Ranger District.

WDAFS presents this award to managers and resource specialists to recognize their efforts in maintaining, restoring, and improving riparian and watershed ecosystems.

The Fivemile-Bell restoration project is a decade-long innovative project that covers about 5,000 acres of national forest land working to restore a critical floodplain to dramatically improve habitat for Oregon Coast Coho salmon, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and other aquatic and terrestrial animals.

An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

The project, a joint effort by the Siuslaw National Forest and numerous partner organizations and agencies, uses new research to guide the re-establishment of historic stream and floodplain interactions, and restore a native riparian plant community on land formerly used for farming.

This cooperative effort is improving and creating habitat in one of the most productive stream systems in Oregon.

Additionally, the restoration accelerates the development of late-successional and old-growth characteristics in surrounding forest and uplands, benefiting a variety of species – such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, which are also federally listed under the ESA, creating a more sustainable and resilient landscape.

“This is a representation of all the hard work that has occurred over the last decade” Paul Burns, the Forest Service project lead, said. “We share this recognition with the many partners that have worked on this project.”

Additional partners on the project include Siuslaw Watershed Council, Siuslaw Institute, Elkton Community Education Center, Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Ecotrust, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Western Rivers Conservancy.

“The Fivemile Bell project showcases the incredible social and ecological outcomes that result when diverse project partners work together” Eli Tome, executive director of the Siuslaw Watershed Council, said. “Partners have invested over $1 million in this innovative restoration project over the past decade. Research indicates this investment has supported over 15 local jobs which is critical in our rural community. Restoring this area is supporting one of the strongest runs of threatened Coho salmon on the Oregon Coast. This project is an investment in our community, economy and environment today, and for future generations.”

To learn more about the Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration Project visit: https://go.usa.gov/xmAV8. For personal narratives from local project partners at Fivemile Bell and other restoration projects throughout the area, visit the Siuslaw Watershed Council’s website at https://www.siuslaw.org/why-we-restore/.


Source information: The Siuslaw National Forest manages more than 630,000 acres of temperate rainforests along the Oregon Coast Range, from Tillamook to the end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Coos Bay. Additional information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/siuslaw, www.twitter.com/SiuslawNF and www.facebook.com/SiuslawNF.

The Siuslaw Watershed Council supports sound economic, social and environmental uses of natural and human resources in the Siuslaw River Basin. The Council encourages cooperation among public and private watershed entities to promote awareness and understanding of watershed functions by adopting and implementing a total watershed approach to natural resource management and production.

Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

Future biologists awarded Forest Service -sponsored Skanner Foundation scholarships

Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa, 2nd from left, poses with the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's Skanner Foundation scholarship recipients Ganiyat Karimu, center, and Nikki Nguyen, second from left, and De La Salle North Catholic High School officials following a reception at the agency's regional office March 13, 2019 in Portland, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Scott Batchelder.

PORTLAND, Ore. – March 27, 2019 – A pair of future biologists are the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s selectees for 2019 Skanner Foundation scholarships.

Nikki Nguyen and Ganiyat Karimu, both seniors at De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, Ore., were recognized March 13 during a reception at the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, also in Portland, where the agency’s regional office is based.

Nguyen has a 4.0 grade point average, and is an active volunteer in her community.

“I do a lot with people,” she said. “One of the things I do is volunteer at a soup kitchen, where I serve meals for homeless people. I also volunteer at a church where every Friday night, they do a dinner for vulnerable women, (and) distribute hygiene products.”

She also works part-time at an OB-GYN clinic as part of a school-sponsored internship.

Nguyen has been accepted at Oregon State University, and said she plans to study biology and is considering a career in medicine, where she can explore how people interact with their environment and the impact of those interactions on their health.

She credits her mom for inspiring her interest in science.

“When she was younger she wanted to be a nurse and was always talking to me about how interested she was in biology and chemistry,” Nguyen said. “But I was also interested for my own sake, because I was very interested in living things, whether it was bacteria, or plants and animals.”

Karimu currently maintains a 3.94 grade point average, and has been accepted to Charles R. Drew University.

She’s also an active volunteer, and recently completed her second summer in a three-year internship at the Oregon Zoo, where she has worked in support of conservation education programs.

Last year, that work included mentoring youth from under-served communities, and leading overnight camping trips in the Columbia River Gorge and nearby state parks for the zoo’s UNO (Urban Nature Overnights) program.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t really interested in the forest,” she said. I was a city girl. The city trees were enough for me. Going out in the woods, with no electricity, wasn’t really my idea of relaxing. Volunteering with the zoo has changed that for me – I’ve jumped out of my comfort zone, a huge distance. (But) being at places like Eagle Creek, it showed me the peace (to be found) in nature,” she said.

Karimu and Nguyen both said they plan to study biology in college, and that they are trying to keep their options open, but have a strong interest in medicine and public health.

“I’m a question asker. I ask many questions. I know that I want to know the ‘why’ to everything. That pulls me to science, and what pulls me to biology is you can see the ‘why,’” Karimu said. “You can see it in the animal’s adaptation, for example.”

The Skanner Foundation partners with organizations throughout region to recognize high-potential students in Pacific Northwest region, and presents scholarships during the foundation’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Portland, Ore.

The USDA Forest Service is the foundation’s first federal partner, and sponsored two $1500 scholarships in both the 2018 and 2019 awards years.

Because the 2019 breakfast took place during the federal government shutdown, the Forest Service was unable to provide a representative at this year’s breakfast to present Karimu and Nguyen with their awards.

During the March 13 reception, Regional Forester, Glenn Casamassa said he wanted to ensure the students understood how much the agency values them, and values its investment in their future.

For more information about the Skanner Foundation and the foundation’s scholarship program, visit www.theskanner.com and use the links listed under the “Foundation” tab.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff report.

Umpqua NF employee is agency’s Federal Engineer of the Year honoree

close up of Steve Marchi, an engineer assigned to the Umpqua National Forest, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region

ROSEBURG, Ore. – February 27, 2018 – The Federal Engineer of the Year Award, sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers, Professional Engineers in Government, honors engineers employed by a federal agency that employs at least 50 engineers worldwide.

Steve Marchi, USDA Forest Service, Umpqua National Forest engineer, was recognized as the UForest Service’s agency winner during the 2018 Federal Engineer of the Year Award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2018.

As an agency winner, he, along with 30 other esteemed engineers nationwide, was a finalist for the Federal Engineer of the Year.

Steve Marchi stands next to a banner for the Federal Engineer of the Year awards

Steve Marchi, and engineer assigned to the Umpqua National Forest, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, was an agency-level honoree at the Federal Engineer of the Year 2018 awards ceremony. Agency honorees are also finalists for the Federal Engineer of the Year award, presented annually by the National Society of Professional Engineers. Courtesy photo.

Typically, the honor is reserved for a current employee, either civilian or military, who is either a licensed professional engineer or engineer in training and who works at a federal agency that employs at least 50 engineers worldwide.

“I nominated Steve for his many professional achievements and organizational engagement as well as his continued attention to learning,” said Emilee Blount, Director of Engineering, Technology and Geospatial Services for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C.

Blount served as keynote speaker for the ceremony.

Marchi previously received another national award in 2017 in recognition of his outstanding work in integrating different work areas and projects both inside and outside of the Forest Service.

Marchi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from University of Idaho (1997) and is a registered professional engineer in the State of Ohio. He began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in 1993 on the Payette National Forest in Idaho. Marchi began working on the Umpqua National Forest in 2011 after working 10 years on the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio.

By Cheryl Caplan, Umpqua National Forest

West Bend Project receives USFS top honor

Bend, Ore.  The West Bend Vegetation Management Project has received the 2017 Forest Service’s Chief’s Honor Award, the highest award given by the Forest Service.

The Chief’s Honor Award publicly recognizes outstanding accomplishments that contribute to the Forest Service’s strategic goals. The prestigious honor was given to the West Bend Project in the category of “Sustaining Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands” for the ambitious 26,000 acre restoration project immediately adjacent to the City of Bend.

Historically in Central Oregon, small wildfires or insect infestations created a forest of different-aged trees, underbrush, and openings or clearings, allowing a diversity of wildlife and plants to flourish and kept forests resilient to large scale disturbances.

The West Bend Vegetation Management Project prescribes vegetation treatments across approximately 26,000 acres of the Deschutes National Forest to restore a healthy forest landscape consistent with the region’s historical norm.

“The Deschutes National Forest worked directly with the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP), a group of 19 volunteer community stakeholders representing interests from environment to industry, to undertake a very ambitious project in an area where people love to recreate,” Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon said. “To have the forest step in and acknowledge the need to take care of this area so folks can continue having these experiences and then get the support to do the work…that is a pretty amazing accomplishment. The DCFP working with the Deschutes National Forest is truly an example of shared leadership.”

Kevin Larkin, District Ranger on the Bend-Fort Rock District of the Deschutes National Forest, accepted the award at a ceremony in Washington D.C. Dec. 7. He was joined by Pete Caligiuri, a Forest Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, who attended on behalf of the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project.

“This project could not have happened were it not for the Deschutes Collaborative that worked hand-in-hand, as an equal partner, with us to make this project a success,” Larkin said. “The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project team hosted meetings, field trips, presentations and conducted a vast awareness campaign to get buy-in for this project while the employees of the Deschutes National Forest put in literally thousands of hours planning, and now, implementation. This is a true demonstration of how well we can do when we build community support for restoration and how that allows us to increase the pace and scale of restoration in the future.”

The West Bend Vegetation Management Project’s goal is to restore a more resilient and healthy forest.  For additional information go to www.deschutescollaborativeforest.org.

Courtesy photo: Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project

In the news: Researcher recognized for moss study

Portland, Ore. – GovLoop, a government news and information website, is sharing the stories of finalists for this year’s SAMMIES (Samuel J. Haven Service to America Medals), including the USDA Forest Service’s Sarah Jovan, who, with fellow researcher Geoffrey H. Donovan, is recognized for the Portland, Ore. “moss study.”

Initially intended to determine if moss could be used to estimate air pollution in cities, the $100,000 study revealed that moss can also serve as a beacon for pollution by cancer-causing heavy metals, providing detailed, neighborhood-level data that might have otherwise required $17 million worth of air monitoring equipment to collect.

The work led directly to remediation for cadmium and arsenic contamination outside two Portland, Ore. glass factories and to tighter controls across the industry, improving lives for many at risk of exposure to these contaminants.

Read more: https://www.govloop.com/govie-fighting-air-pollution-tree-moss/

More info about the SAMMIES: https://servicetoamericamedals.org/honorees/index.php#filter=.finalist.y2017,+.winner.y2017