Category Archives: Human interest

‘Land of Umpqua’ photo contest winners

A wildcat is spotted through the leaves. Courtesy photo by Lindsay Briley. Awarded First Place-Wildlife in the 2019 Land of Umpqua photo contest, sponsored by the Forest Service, City of Roseburg, and Bureau of Land Management.

ROSEBURG, Ore. (Oct. 1, 2019)  The Roseburg District, Bureau of Land Management and the Umpqua National Forest announced winners of the 2019 “Land of Umpqua” Amateur Photo Contest yesterday.

This past year, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails Act.

Amateur photographers submitted a variety of photos featuring the beautiful landscapes and wildlife on BLM and Forest Service -managed lands from around the Umpqua River, Umpqua Valley and surrounding forests.

Photos submitted by amateur photographers were grouped and judged in several categories: “Fall Colors,” “Water,” “Waterfalls and Wilderness,” “Wildlife along Trails and in the Wilderness,” and “Pets on Trails.”

Congratulations to the winners!

Richard Krieger, Waterfalls and Wilderness-First Place

Winning entries, by category:

Fall Colors on Public Lands

  • 1st Place – Tiffni Curley – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Kevin Berhardt – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Jane Brown

Umpqua Wildlife along Trails and in the Wilderness

  • 1st Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Tracy Moulden – Myrtle Creek

Water, Waterfalls and Wilderness

  • 1st Place – Richard Krieger – Ashland
  • 2nd Place – Amy Egli – Toketee
  • 3rd Place – Shanti-Rail-Chatfield – Oakland

Pets on Trails

  • 1st Place – Cheri Knott – Roseburg
  • 2nd Place – Lindsay Somers – Roseburg
  • 3rd Place – Kevin Berhardt – Roseburg

The winning photos are available to view at: http://bit.ly/2na3iGt. All photo submissions for the contest can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/2nSy72E.

The Roseburg District, Bureau of Land Management and the Umpqua National Forest hosted the photo contest as part of a multi-agency exhibit at the 23rd Annual Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show held earlier this year.

Winners receive prizes, including free overnight stays at BLM and Forest Service campgrounds, as well as Smokey Bear -themed items.

The winning photos are also featured on the BLM and Forest Service Social media services.


Source information: Umpqua National Forest (via Facebook)

Forest Feature: Bigfoot

Someone you might see on the National Forest: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, pictured here. Sasquatches have been seen running away from a wildfire. Please be careful with fire when you are visiting their neighborhood.

It comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. It’s an animal today, but a plant the next? Few see it, but it sees all. It (allegedly) LOVES Nutella! It’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s the last of its kind, a true legend. That’s right, this month’s Forest Feature honors the Pacific Northwest’s most unique forest creature: BIGFOOT!

Lurking always just out of sight, our friendly 8-or-more-feet-tall, gentle giant of the Pacific Northwest has (reportedly) graced us with its presence for decades now.

Some say that its large stature belies an otherwise congenial attitude towards other forest-dwelling creatures.

However in times past and present, many have described a “wild man” or “hairy man” stealing food from unwary hikers.

Some anthropologists and dedicated Bigfoot-hunters have devoted their lives to revealing its secrets; but in true bigfoot-style, the creature remains largely unexposed. You won’t even find it posting on Instagram (although you may find many imposters posing for a Kodak moment).

Did you know?

  • Bigfoot, sometimes known as Sasquatch, is also rumored to be a shapeshifter
  • The highest number of Bigfoot sightings is in Clackamas County (Oregon), along Hwy 244.
  • The Blue Mountains is allegedly one of its favorite spots, and where parts of the 1995 film “Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter” were filmed (the story is set in Shaver Lake, Calif. and in the Modoc National Forest, also in California).
  • The first motion picture footage (alleged to be) of the elusive, notoriously camera-shy creature is known as the Petterson-Gimlin film, filmed in 1967.

This month, we have no photos of Bigfoot to share… but we do have a coloring page depicting an artist’s conception of Bigfoot in its natural habitat, created by the Jimmye Turner, a USDA Forest Service fire prevention specialist on the Umatilla National Forest.

We also have a drawing activity to help students draw on their creativity, curiosity, and to inspire questions about the many adaptations animals have evolved to meet the challenges of their environment.

While some of you may not be Bigfoot believers, Bigfoot offers a wonderful opportunity to talk about fire prevention during the hottest month of the year, the unexplored and undiscovered aspects of our forest’s wild and wilderness areas, and the importance of preserving habitat before more species become scarce, and seemingly as difficult to find as Bigfoot has proved to be.

Both of these resources are fun for all ages, but are especially suited to students in early elementary school (grades K-4).

Gather stories about Bigfoot in your own communities, use its mystique to inspire stewardship of the forest!

Resources:

Someone you might see on the National Forest: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, pictured here. Sasquatches have been seen running away from a wildfire. Please be careful with fire when you are visiting their neighborhood.
A coloring page, featuring Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch). USDA Forest Service illustration by Jimmye Turner, Umpqua National Forest staff.

Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

After a century’s absence, migratory steelhead return to Beaver Creek

three migratory steelhead are pictured swimming in turbulent waters

LA GRANDE, Ore. (July 29, 2019) Earlier this summer, Tim Bailey and Winston Morton of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were looking for signs of spawning steelhead in the headwaters of Beaver Creek southwest of La Grande. 

They’d surveyed miles of the creek, tediously making their way over downed trees, rocks, and slippery stream banks while scanning the streambed. 

Then they found four redds, depressions in the river gravel made by fish to lay their eggs. 

This simple discovery represents a breakthrough for migratory steelhead, which had not been able to reach the headwaters of Beaver Creek for over 100 years.

A migratory steelhead leaps from the water in an effort to clear a rocky outcrop blocking it's passage upstream.
Human development that blocks migratory steelhead access to historical habitat, as well as poorly-designed passages that create strong currents can tire young fish expose them from predators, have resulted in several species being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Migratory steelhead are amazing fish. After they are born and raised in cold freshwater streams, they will swim hundreds of miles to feed and grow in the ocean. Then they swim back to the stream of their birth to reproduce. 

For many thousands of years, steelhead followed this life cycle in the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries, including the headwaters of Beaver Creek.

That changed a century ago with the construction of the Beaver Creek Dam and four water diversions in the La Grande municipal watershed.

Steelhead and other migratory fish could no longer swim past the dam and diversions to reach the high-quality spawning and rearing habitat in upper Beaver Creek. 

A man looks out at a concrete weird under construction along a streambed.
A concrete weir under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Just two years after construction, fish biologists have found signs of migratory steelhead returning to the river for the first time in a century. Courtesy photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

To solve this problem, several local, state, and federal entities teamed up to implement the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project.

When the construction crew broke ground in June of 2017, the project had been in various stages of planning for 20 years.

Why did it take so long?

Designing a structure to provide fish passage up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam was a significant engineering challenge. The structure had to be low-maintenance and work without electricity; it also had to accommodate high flows in the spring as well as low flows later in the summer.

A series of precast concrete weirs is laid into the Beaver Creek streambed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

The City of La Grande worked with a local civil engineering firm, Anderson Perry & Associates, to evaluate several alternatives for a fish passage structure, and other project partners provided technical feedback.

They ultimately landed on a one-of-a-kind solution: a series of 59 precast concrete weirs (little dams). Each weir weighs 27,000 pounds and had to be constructed off site.

Stacked one-by-one along about 400 feet of the dam’s eastern spillway, the weirs create a staircase of resting pools that allow fish to jump & swim up and over the top of the dam.

To date, there are no other fishways like this in the Pacific Northwest.

Construction workers install a series of precast concrete weirs in a temporarily-drained stream bed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. The 2017 installation of 59 weirs provides a series of resting pools for fish to swim up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

Implementing the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project took a total of $1,125,700 and vital contributions from several partners:

  • The City of La Grande provided technical expertise, project funding, and grant administration.
  • Anderson Perry & Associates of La Grande provided engineering design and construction project management.
  • Lindley Contracting of Union constructed the project, including the fish passage structure, upgraded several intake structures, and replaced worn out utility infrastructure.
  • Grande Ronde Model Watershed facilitated project funding, including $150,000 from the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as technical feedback that contributed to the enhancement of the project.
  • The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board contributed $150,000.
  • The Oregon Water Resources Department provided $600,000 in grant funding.
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided expert advice, design review, and project monitoring.
  • The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest provided environmental analysis, planning, technical feedback, and implementation support.

“I’m grateful for the collaborative effort put forth by everyone involved,” Kyle Carpenter, La Grande’s director of public works, said.  “The wealth of knowledge and experience that we all pooled together, along with our cooperative move-it-forward mentality, were invaluable in the successful completion of this project.”

“The La Grande Municipal Watershed provides some of the best drinking water in the world, straight from our National Forest,” Lee Mannor, water superintendent for the city of La Grande, said.  “Now we also provide some of the best native fish habitat in the world.  That is something we can all be proud of when we turn on the tap.”

“The Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project was a special one for our team,” Brett Moore, P.E., with Anderson Perry & Associates, Inc., said  “The City of La Grande asked us to help them solve a unique engineering design problem, which is always rewarding.  This project also gave us a chance to be part of something much bigger right here in our own backyard.”

“This is a testament to nature’s resilience,” Jesse Steele, interim director of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, said.  “I’m looking forward to more success stories as we continue to connect and restore habitat in the Grande Ronde Basin.”

“After more than 100 years away, migratory steelhead now have access to over 14 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat above the Beaver Creek Dam, and they are moving back in,” Tim Bailey, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.  “Finding those first four redds was an important milestone, and I expect we will find even more in the future.”

“It really made my summer when I heard that steelhead were once again spawning in upper Beaver Creek,” Bill Gamble, district ranger for the La Grande District, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, said.  “There is a lot of credit to go around. We in the Forest Service were just privileged to work with so many great partners over the years to help make the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project a reality. This is another win for our local restoration economy – where habitat restoration projects are driving more investments and jobs while improving everyone’s access to natural resources.”

An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, in the foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage.
An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage. Courtesy photo by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

For more information, please see the article, “Reconnecting the Habitat Dots,” published in Ripples in the Grande Ronde and the La Grande Observer in the summer of 2017.


Source information: Wallowa Whitman National Forest (press release).

Organizational camps open doors to the outdoors

A woman seated in a small boat raises her arms in the breeze, while a second woman paddles the boat across a forest lake.

Where can you try zip-lining, horseback riding, camping, swimming, hiking, or other outdoors activities you’ve never tried before, with a group of your new best friends – and an assist from someone with more experienced to guide you?

The answer could be one of the organizational camps that operate on many of the seventeen National Forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Organizational camps are located on public lands and managed by third-party organizations under the authority of a Special Use permit granted by the U.S. Forest Service.

USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region video by Chris Bentley, Office of Communications & Community Engagement

There are 44 such camps operating on national forests in Oregon and Washington, each offering unique opportunities for people who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the beauty and adventure opportunities available on forest lands.

“Permittees are able to offer a wide variety of experiences to the public,” Shawnee Hinman, regional special uses program manager for the Forest Service, said.

Because the agency’s work involves balancing multiple uses of the forest, many of the most-developed recreation sites on National Forest System lands are operated by permittees.

“They’re vital partners… often providing the unique level of services, with more staff, more amenities, more flexibility, and more infrastructure than what the Forest Service can normally provide,” Hinman said.

A camper flies above the forest floor while strapped into a climbing harness.
A camper at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, an organizational camp at Mt. Hood, Oregon, flies over the forest floor while strapped into a climbing harness. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

The extra amenities and services provided at some organizational camps are especially important because they provide opportunities for members of the public who need more support than the minimalist facilities offered at many Forest Service operated campgrounds and recreation areas.

For example, people with different ability levels, such as special medical needs or mobility challenges, that can limit their activities on forest lands could find better opportunities to enjoy their public lands – while sustaining the support or assistance they need to do so safely – at an organizational camp.

“These are organizations whose sole purpose is enriching the lives of others: spiritually, physically, or emotionally,” Nathan Fletcher, special use manager for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. “The main idea here is that these groups are improving lives through outdoor experiences.”

A camper gives the "V" for victory symbol while cycling with a staff member.
Campers at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp enjoy the outdoors in a safe, supportive environment with a one-to-one ratio of staff to campers. Many of the staff are local college students, who earn credit for their participation – creating strong and lasting connections between the camp and local community. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

The Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, located on the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon, introduces people with disabilities to the great outdoors via day outings and overnight camps. It offers a 1:1 ratio of campers to counsellors, offering eight weeks of summer camps and two winter retreats each year.

“We provide one of the only fully-accessible camps on Forest Service lands in the nation,” Matt Grager, the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp’s communications director, said. “The real magic of the camp is that if you were to pull up to our 22 acre camp, it would look like a regular summer camp straight from the movies—camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding, even whitewater rafting and a ropes course… you name it we got it – the campers get to do all of the traditional summer camp activities just geared around the needs of people with disabilities.”

A camper and a staff member smile and embrace while posing for a photo at camp.
A camper and staff member lean in for a hug while posing for a camera. Many campers return year after year to attend the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, which provides physical fitness and social opportunities for people with intellectual and physical disabilities at its organizational camp on the Mt Hood National Forest in Oregon. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

The Boy Scouts of America operate numerous camps on national forests in the Pacific Northwest, providing day, overnight, and week-long summer camps for youth from around Washington, Oregon, and the United States.

These camps expand recreation access to the outdoors for young people from all across the country, including urban, suburban, and rural areas, offering activities ranging from archery lessons to week-long trail riding trips on horseback.

Organizational camps can create deeply rooted relationships and a connection to the land that reach from the forest to the Forest Service, and back into the community.

More than 500 people participate in programs at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis camp each year, and many return year after year. In fact, some of the organizations campers have been returning each summer for 20 to 30 years, Grager said.

Most of the camp’s counselors come from Portland State University (PSU) where students earn 6 credits for their participation as a capstone project for the college’s degree programs. Approximately 4500 college students have served as Kiwanis camp counsellors since the partnership was first established in the 1970’s.

“The experience the counselors have is as transformative for them as it is for the participants,” Grager said.

The Forest Service doesn’t have the capacity to provide the kind of individual attention these organizations can provide for their visitors, Hinman said – but considers organizational camps to be important partners in creating those opportunities for a diverse group of campers.

“We so appreciate the many organizations who invest so much into helping so many people get outdoors who otherwise probably wouldn’t get the chance,” he said.

More information:

To find out what organizational camps operate in your area, contact your local forest supervisor’s or district rangers’ office. Organizational camps may also be listed on the forest’s website, under Recreation or Special Use program offerings.

For the 2019 season, the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp will host a barbecue to celebrate the last night of each weekly camp. Skits are performed by campers and counselors. The community is invited, and food and music will be provided. Barbecues are scheduled every Thursday, through Aug. 18. A $10 donation is suggested.

Campers and staff paddle a canoe across a lake. Mt. Hood is visible beyond the far shore..
Campers and staff paddle a canoe across a reflection of Mt. Hood at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp in Oregon. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

Chris Bentley is the Website and Social Media Manager for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement

In the news: Wolf Creek Job Corps firefighters assist rescue flight

On June 21, 2019, Wolf Creek Job Corps student students assisted a REACH-8 Air Medical Services crew evacuate an injured motorist from the Umpqua National Forest. At left, a satellite image of the students creating a light ring to identify a field where the helicopter would land. At right, students involved in the rescue post for a photo. USDA Forest service photos.

Firefighting students at the Wolf Creek Job Corps recently called on their emergency response skills to aid an injured motorist.

Members of the center’s staff called 911 after a second motorist drove 20 miles to the center to report a vehicle crash on the Umpqua National Forest. The injured motorist was transported by ambulance to the center, and a REACH flight helicopter was called in.

“Normally the ground unit that is requesting us sets up a pre-determined landing area or has a local fire department assist with this task,” Brittany Countryman, a REACH flight crew member and registered nurse, wrote in a letter to the center’s firefighters and staff. “On this very dark night there was no one available to help us land or locate a safe place to land. Troy and the group of young men that met us were fast; we made the decision to try to land at the Job Corps field and within minutes there was a well-lit area to guide us in.”

June 21, 2019 image of Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center firefighters gathered in formation on the Wolf Creek Job Corps baseball field to assist a REACH-8 Air Medical Services Agusta A109 Power helicopter land and take off safely during a nighttime emergency airlift. USDA Forest service photo.

The student firefighters gathered in formation to simulate a ring of helicopter landing zone lights that allowed the air medical services crew to land safely on the center’s baseball field, which served as the extraction point. They also helped off-load the stabilized patient from the ground ambulance, and transported her across the Little River to the helicopter.

“Wolf Creek fire students are trained to respond to all risk incidents under the incident command structure,” Gabe Wishart, the center’s director, said.  “Our students’ ability to respond under stress, follow instruction, and to work safely in atypical situations such as this medical evacuation demonstrates the effectiveness of that training.” 

Full story, via USDA Forest Service: https://www.fs.fed.us/inside-fs/wolf-creek-job-corps-firefighters-step-plate-during-nighttime-medical-air-evacuation

On June 21, 2019, Wolf Creek Job Corps student students assisted a REACH-8 Air Medical Services crew evacuate an injured motorist from the Umpqua National Forest. USDA Forest service photo.

Field Notes: Taking a closer look at nature

Two damselflies, perched on a blade of grass at a pond outside the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center, during the summer of 2017. "There's a lot of bug action in the spring and summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest and amateur nature photographer, said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel, used with permission.

Ron Kikel is a bird man. And an ant man. And a wasp guy. Those aren’t his superhero aliases – they’re descriptions of just some of his work as a conservation education specialist for the Mt. Hood National Forest.

But, Kikel is probably best known as the “owl guy.”

Meet Jack.

Jack, a 12-year old Great Horned Owl, is blind in one eye. He was rescued and rehabilitated by staff at the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which trains disabled raptors for use providing wildlife education. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
Jack, a 12-year old Great Horned Owl, is blind in one eye. He was rescued and rehabilitated by staff at the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which trains disabled raptors for use providing wildlife education. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack is a 12-year old Great Horned Owl. He’s also blind in one eye. Jack was rescued after tangling with some barbed wire, and rehabilitated several years ago by the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for disabled raptors and trains them for use in educational settings.

Kikel met Jack in 2010, at a Wild for Wildlife event. Jack was working with his caretaker, Dr. Jean Cypher, at the time to provide conservation education to students. Kikel was doing similar work for the Forest Service, using a taxidermied owl as a prop.

Their encounter inspired Kikel to pursue training to become a raptor handler, himself.

 
Jack, a disabled Great Horned Owl, assists Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler, with providing conservation education talks around the region. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack, a disabled Great Horned Owl, assists Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler, with providing conservation education talks around the region. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

“With taxidermy, you are mostly talking about anatomy. Kids ask a lot of questions about where the bird came from, sometimes it gets a little off-track,” he said. “Show them the live owl, and you have their attention for at 30 minutes, at least.”

These days, Jack and Kikel work as a team to provide conservation education at schools and public events located near Kikel’s “home base” at the Hood River Ranger District in Parkdale, Oregon.

 
Jack the Great Horned Owl poses with Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler. For the past few years, the pair have worked as a team to provide conservation education for classrooms and community groups around their area.  Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack the Great Horned Owl poses with Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler. For the past few years, the pair have worked as a team to provide conservation education for classrooms and community groups around their area. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Sometimes, Jack even joins him at the ranger station’s front desk, where Kikel provides visitor information and the owl has his own perch.

“He’s a star. Everyone likes him a lot,” Kikel said. “He’s probably the best coworker I’ve ever had.”

"This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. "If you look at their eyes, they're more fly-like.. and there's no stinger. (But) when you're camouflaged like that, you're less likely to become someone's dinner." Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. “If you look at their eyes, they’re more fly-like.. and there’s no stinger. (But) when you’re camouflaged like that, you’re less likely to become someone’s dinner.” Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Kikel isn’t just a bird man, he’s also a bug guy. He’s known in the Forest Service’s regional conservation education community for his nature photos, many of which feature dramatic close-ups of the nature he finds around him.

In his prior career, photography was Kikel’s job. He served 20 years in the Air Force, 12 of them as a photographer working in medical research and forensics.

“I worked at Wilford Hall, a big research hospital. So we had an infectious disease lab, dermatology, poison control. They’d want (close-up) photos for teaching, so I took some courses in it,” he said.

"This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. "If you look at their eyes, they're more fly-like.. and there's no stinger. (But) when you're camouflaged like that, you're less likely to become someone's dinner." Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“(This dragonfly) was at a pond near the (Columbia River Gorge) Discovery Center in The Dalles. I think that was last summer,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. The photo was taken from about 12″ away, using a Nikon D50 camera and 105mm macro lens. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Today, skills he once used to photograph scorpions and fire ants for environmental health brochures given to deploying service members are the same ones he now uses to capture breathtaking images of Pacific Northwest beetles, birds and butterflies.

To avoid disturbing his subjects, Kikel often works with minimal gear, often taking photos with just an old Nikon D-50 camera, a manual macro lens, and sometimes a flash.

A ladybug makes a meal of an aphid.  "She's so busy munching down, she didn't even notice me," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. Kikel makes a hobby of his love for nature through photography, with a special focus on landscapes and macro (close-up) photography. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
A ladybug makes a meal of an aphid. “She’s so busy munching down, she didn’t even notice me,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. Kikel makes a hobby of his love for nature through photography, with a special focus on landscapes and macro (close-up) photography. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Despite the seeming spontaneity of this approach, he said macro photography is actually a very slow-going endeavor.

“It takes a lot of patience, because your subjects aren’t going to sit still,” he said.

This Marsh Hawk was in the rehabilitation enclosure at the Rowna Wildlife Clinic, Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He said he spends a lot of time studying his subject's features, and it's hard not to imagine his subjects' have an inner emotional life, much like humans. “You go into an enclosure with big birds, and they can be pretty foreboding-looking when they are not happy,” he said.  
Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
This Marsh Hawk was in the rehabilitation enclosure at the Rowna Wildlife Clinic, Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He said he spends a lot of time studying his subject’s features, and it’s hard not to imagine his subjects’ have an inner emotional life, much like humans. “You go into an enclosure with big birds, and they can be pretty foreboding-looking when they are not happy,” he said.
Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

These days, Kikel said, he considers his photography to be not his job, but his passion.

But he still finds lots of inspiration at the office.

“Mt. Hood is right outside my window… I can watch it change with the seasons,” he said.

An autumn photo of Opal Creek, Ore. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
An autumn photo of Opal Creek, Ore. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

While Kikel credits patience for his most successful shots, he said sometimes a little luck is also required.

He was experimenting with a new camera when he caught a striking image of a Cooper Hawk perched just outside his bedroom.

This Cooper Hawk made a late-February, 2019 appearance at the bird feeder outside Ron Kikel's home. "He takes the word 'bird feeder' to a whole new level," Kikel said, saying the hawk left hungry that day, but has since killed at least one bird who came to feed there. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
This Cooper Hawk made a late-February, 2019 appearance at the bird feeder outside Ron Kikel’s home. “He takes the word ‘bird feeder’ to a whole new level,” Kikel said, saying the hawk left hungry that day, but has since killed at least one bird who came to feed there. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

“I was shooting (pictures of) the birds at my feeder, through the window, and suddenly they all bolted,” he said. “Then I looked up, and said ‘well, that’s why… I’d better get this dude’s picture before he takes off!’”

Whether he’s providing customer service at the ranger station, giving wildlife education talks, or providing tours of Cloud Cap Inn, it’s the interpretive element that drew him to his job.

Ron Kikel took this photo of a heron while visiting Seaside, Ore. in early March, 2019. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
Ron Kikel took this photo of a heron while visiting Seaside, Ore. in early March, 2019. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Seeing the world through a different lens, and being able to share it, is what draws him to photography, as well.

“It’s really an incredible world, when you see it close up,” he said.

"Rufus," a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), photographed by  
Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest. "I tend to anthropomorphize my subjects," he said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“Rufus,” a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), photographed by
Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest. “I tend to anthropomorphize my subjects,” he said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

A field filled with wildlflowers at Dalles Mountain State Ranch in Washington, spring 2017. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
A field filled with wildlflowers at Dalles Mountain State Ranch in Washington, spring 2017. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Smokey Bear to bring fire prevention message to Oregon license plates this summer

Smokey Bear is an iconic symbol of wildfire prevention. Oregon's new Keep Oregon Green special license plate joins 1950's artist Rudy Wendelin’s Smokey Bear with a backdrop of Oregon's lush forests. The plate's $40 surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention education activities around Oregon, which share Smokey and KOG's shared message regarding the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Keep Oregon Green, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, the Ad Council, and Oregon Department of Forestry, have partnered to bring Smokey Bear and his important message to Oregon drivers: Only YOU can prevent wildland fires.

The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles sold 3,000 vouchers for a new, Smokey Bear -emblazoned license plate in December.

The vouchers serve as pre-payment for the special plate surcharge fee for drivers hoping to adopt the new plate; the sale of 3,000 vouchers is required for the state to begin placing orders for plates with a new design.

With 3,000 vouchers sold in just a few days, the plate is will go into production soon, and will become available to vehicle owners registering their passenger vehicles, or replacing their existing license plates, later this year.

Once the plates are released, any Oregon vehicle owner can apply by paying a $40 “special plates” surcharge when registering for new or replacement license plates, in addition to the usual registration and plate fees.

The surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention activities conducted by Keep Oregon Green, an organization that educates the public about the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfire in communities throughout Oregon.

For more information, visit:
https://keeporegongreen.org/smokey-bear-license-plate/


Source information:
The Keep Oregon Green Association was established in 1941 to promote healthy landscapes and safe communities by educating the public of everyone’s shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Smokey Bear was created in 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention. Smokey’s image is protected by U.S. federal law and is administered by the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

In the News: Adriana Morales, Siuslaw NF district fisheries biologist

Adriana Morales, Hebo District fisheries biologist, Siuslaw National Forest, wears waders and poses with a depth measurement tool while collecting stream data

How does a girl from Bogota, Columbia, who grew up in a city set high in the Andes, fall in love with the ocean and end up working for the Forest Service in Hebo, Ore.?

The Skanner News recently profiled Adriana Morales, a district fisheries biologist for the Siuslaw National Forest, as part of a running series highlighting diversity in the Forest Service, and opportunities in the natural resources career fields.

Morales is passionate about working with partners to restore the Pacific Northwest’s salmon and steelhead habitat, which relies on the clean, cold streams supplied by forest shade and melting mountain snow.

She’s also dedicated to sharing her love of the natural world with others; she frequently conducts bilingual outreach events and opportunities that open outdoor experiences to youth from under-served communities.

From the story:

“We are sharing this planet … and we need to recognize and ensure that conservation, preservation and rational use of natural resources needs have a balance with the interest of the society, and with other animal and plant species, because this is our legacy for future generations,” Morales said.

Read more, at:
https://www.theskanner.com/news/northwest/27715-adriana-morales-makes-a-difference-as-a-usda-forest-service-fisheries-biologist

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SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree delivers season’s greetings in Nebraska

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree crossed Scotts Bluff National Monument on Nebraska's Great Plains Nov. 18, 2018. The tree is traveling from Sweet Home Ranger District on the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, where it was harvested, to the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., where it will be delivered with 10,000 handmade ornaments to decorate the Capitol lawn this holiday season. Courtesy photo by Andrew Smith, Adventure Photography. Used with permission

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in the western Cascade mountain range. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 18th, 2018
Scottsbluff, Neb.

Season’s greetings and holiday cheer on the Great Plains

What a beautiful day! Blue skies and incredible scenery pass our windows as our modern-day wagon train rolls by.

High prairie grasslands, golden in the sun, and the most incredible rock formations I have ever seen are dusted with the snow from yesterday’s storm.

Oh, what a difference a day makes!

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This morning, we stopped at the Historic Territorial Prison in Laramie, Wyoming.

This beautiful state park was a prison in the late 1800’s and helped to maintain law and order during the wild, wild, west. It was used to lock up notorious outlaws, such as Butch Cassidy.

The site now offers historic buildings, museum exhibits, a gift shop, and today, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

Quite a few people came out to sign the banner, have photos taken with Smokey Bear, and to wish the tree team well on our way to Washington D.C.

Our next stop was 147 miles away. We said “farewell” to Wyoming and “hello” to Nebraska with a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree team stops for a photo while cleaning road grime from the truck during a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb. before continuing to Scotts Bluff National Monument Nov. 18, 2018. The "Return to the Oregon Trail" tour left Laramie, Wyo. and continued to Scotts Bluff National Monument and Scottsbluff, Neb. en route to thThe U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree visited Scotts Bluff National Monument Nov. 18, 2018. The "Return to the Oregon Trail" tour left Laramie, Wyo. and continued to Scotts Bluff National Monument and Scottsbluff, Neb. en route to the U.S. Capitol. USDA Forest Service photo.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree team stops for a photo while cleaning road grime from the truck during a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb. before continuing to Scotts Bluff National Monument Nov. 18, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

The first thing we did upon arriving was to wash the truck, trailer, and all of the support vehicles. The storm had left all of the vehicles coated in icy, sandy, grime!

Once everything was sparkly-clean, we drove up to Scotts Bluff National Monument for a photo shoot.

Here’s the view from my window as we drove past the bluffs.

What a beautiful area!

Big, reddish colored rocks rising like giant castles seemingly touch the sky, above the golden plains.

Majestic.

Magnificent.

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It’s incredible to think about the half-million travelers on the Oregon trail who marveled at the exact geologic formations I stood marveling at, 175 years later.

Some things change, and some things stay the same.

This evening, the City of Scottsbluff hosted a wonderful nighttime parade, with several thousand spectators in attendance.

The mayors of Scottsbluff and Gering, Neb. also proclaimed November 18th, 2018 as “U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Day.”

When the tree stopped at the end of the parade, everyone converged on the tree, eager to sign it and to see the noble fir and the beautiful, handcrafted ornaments.

Once again, the atmosphere was joyful and full of peace and good will. I have never in my life experienced 30 days of joy, in a row. This tree has shown me that there is still joy in the world even though it can sometimes be hard to find around us. It is there, just under the surface, waiting to emerge if given the opportunity.

A sign in the city of Scottsbluff, Neb. advertises a nighttime Christmas parade and visit from the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Nov. 18. 2018. T

The city of Scottsbluff, Neb. hosted a nighttime Christmas parade Nov. 18. 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

I, for one will be looking for the hidden joy every where I go from here on out. I think I might be addicted to joy now. I’m ruined forever, in the best possible way.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

PS: Check out this aerial footage of our U.S. Capitol Christmas tree “modern-day wagon train” as it travels through Scotts Bluff National Monument, courtesy of Andrew Smith at Adventure Photograpy.

 

 

 

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree rolls out on tour

A reenactor representing Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Services, poses with U.S. Airmen during a 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree whistle-stop event Nov. 10, 2018.

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in central Oregon. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog. To read the previous entries, visit: https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.


November 10th, 2018
Albany, Ore.

Thankful for family, friends & veterans

Today we left home. The packing and the year of preparation is complete and it is time to leave family and friends and to take the first steps away from all we know, to venture into the great unknown. It was also a day to be thankful for the veterans who have made this country free so that we can travel as we wish. This freedom does not exist everwhere.

Our stop at the Cabellas store in Springfield, Ore. was like a giant farewell party. My family and friends who had not made it to the Sweet Home event came to wish me well.

I realized at this moment how much I am going miss all of my family and friends over the next month. It was just a small taste of what the Oregon Trail pioneers felt when they left their friends and extended family members behind – the pioneers were going to be gone for a much longer period of time than me. Many pioneers said “goodbye” knowing they might never see their families and friends again.

Cabellas was so festive!  There was music, hot chocolate, Smokey Bear and there were even LIVE reindeer! There was such a spirit of joy in the air as people picked their favorite spot to sign the banners on the side of the truck.

My friend’s son summed up the mood of the event perfectly: “Of all 50 states, that Oregon was chosen to deliver the Capitol Christmas tree ALL the way to D.C.? That is amazing.” I agree.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree also visited the Albany Veteran’s Day Parade, the largest Veteran’s Day Parade this side of the Mississippi. It was such an honor to be at this event.  There are so many veterans in my life and I am thankful every day for their service to our great country.  Not every country has the freedoms that the United States of America enjoys. When I was 17, I traveled to Canton, China as part of an international sports exchange to run a cross country race.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember the race at all. What I remember is seeing the poverty, and being surprised at the lack of freedom that we had. We could only visit the places the government gave us permission to visit. We could not go to just any jade factory, we had to go to the one they directed us to.

In America, visitors can move freely. I had always heard from my Dad that I should be thankful to be an American, I did not realize just how true that was until I visited another country. I came back proud to be an American, and thankful for all of our veterans and the price they paid for our freedom.

The service members and veterans, Civil Air Patrol cadets, and parade-watchers had a great time signing the tree banner, learning more about the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and having their photos taken with Smokey Bear.  It was our second day officially “on the trail” with the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree, and it was a very good one.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

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