Category Archives: Washington State

Field Notes: Backpacking Gifford Pinchot NF with Outdoor Asian

Participants during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

Jay Horita is a Youth & Community Engagement Specialist for Northwest Youth Corps, supporting the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region. Here, he shares notes from a weekend backpacking experience with Outdoor Asian, a nonprofit whose goal is to encourage and study the participation of Asian and Pacific Islanders in the outdoors.

Participants pose for a group photo during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants pose for a group photo during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. From left: Jay Horita, Alvin Loong, Alice Cao, Chris Liu, Yewah Lau, Mumtz Mesania, Reina Miyamoto, Natalie Balkam, Deeshi Donnelly, Cheryl Truong, and Depak Awari. Courtesy photo provided by Deepak Awari.

On Friday, August 30th 2019, eleven members of the Outdoor Asian community from the Oregon and Washington chapters drove up a pothole-ridden and rocky Forest Service road to the Glacier View Trailhead in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest.

After a hot meal of noodles, we hit the sleeping bags to prepare for the next day’s backpacking adventure. 

Participants hike a trail downhill during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants hike a trail downhill during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

This trip was the very first of its kind for Outdoor Asian in many ways: the first backpacking trip, the first multi-chapter collaboration event, the first trip occurring in wilderness areas of two public land agencies.

Trip leaders Chris Liu and I spent much time planning a positive, fun, challenging, and educational backpacking adventure for eleven Outdoor Asians. 

Participants prepared food, including some traditional asian dishes, during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants prepared food, including some traditional asian dishes, during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. From left: Chris Liu, Reina Miyamoto, Natalie Balkam, and Deepak Awari. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo provided by Deepak Awari.

We deliberately chose a diverse meal plan, which ranged from instant noodles to elaborate dahl and roti from scratch (rolled out on our Nalgene bottles!), to showcase the vast diversity of Asian backpacking food options.

Our goal was to ensure the participants realized they don’t have to give up their culinary heritage on trips into the back country! Thinking back to my early years in back country adventuring, I remember trips where all I ate were dehydrated mashed potatoes and tortillas, so it was great to treat everyone to familiar foods. We even had a rare tea blend, a Yuzu Green tea, to enjoy throughout the trip. The food brought us closer together, helping make the trip feel more like a family adventure.

Participants get a lesson in reading topographical maps during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants get a lesson in reading topographical maps during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. From left: Jay Horita, Yewah Lau, Mumtaz Mesania, Reina Miyamoto, Natalie Balkam, Alice Cao, Cheryl Truong, Chris Liu, and Alvin Loong. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

Besides giving everyone a great backcountry experience, Chris and I also wanted to talk about a range of important topics from Leave-No-Trace principles to Wilderness First Aid. Some even had the chance to practice wilderness first aid by patching each others’ blisters and hot spots!

Participants compare trail footwear during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.
Participants compare trail footwear during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.

Our group included seasoned public land stewards, from biologists to district rangers, who shared their experiences working for the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

Those uninitiated to public land management got a crash course on the differences between National Forest land (where we started the hike) and National Park land (where we ended it).

Participants during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.
Participants during an Outdoor Asian hiking trip on Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. The trip was supported in part by the USDA Forest Service. Courtesy photo by Deepak Awari.

Crossing the boundary from the Glacier View Wilderness into Mt. Rainier Wilderness was a special moment!

For me, the ultimate trip highlight was arriving at the Gobblers Knob fire lookout tower, where Mt. Rainier (or Tahoma, one of many Native American names for the mountain) peaked its glacier-covered summit through the clouds.

The mountain was spectacular and humbling. The lakes and meadows we visited were calming. The stars gave us perspective. The wilderness gave us the best backdrop to share our experiences as Outdoor Asians and develop our connection to a life outdoors.

Outdoor Asian participants pose atop a rocky outcrop during an August, 2019 backpacking trip through Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.
Outdoor Asian participants pose atop a rocky outcrop during an August, 2019 backpacking trip through Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. Courtesy photo by Yewah Lau.

In future trips, we hope to address how all public lands (indeed all lands in the Americas) were cared for by the diverse tribes, groups, and nations of Native Americans; and still are, in many places.

Most importantly, we celebrated our shared connection to the land across all cultures. The Forest Service is, like most things, ephemeral in comparison to the mountain and its landscapes.

In the News: ‘We’ve got your goats’

Captured mountain goats from Olympic National park being delivered to a staging area where they are cared for by veterinarians and then transported in refrigerated trucks to the northern Cascade Mountains for release. National Park Service Photo by J. Burger.

One of the most unique sights in Your Northwest Forests is recent scenes of mountain goats in blindfolds, hoisted high above the forest floor by helicopter.

It’s part of a multi-agency effort to relocate the goats from Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park in Washington, where they’re not a native species to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, also in Washington. At the first location, the goats have approached and even attacked hikers while seeking salt, which they can’t easily find there. In the new location, natural salt deposits are plentiful and a diminished local population of goats expected to benefit from an expanded selection of mates.

Recently, KIRO-TV 7 featured four high-flying minutes of mountain goat video, in a behind-the-scenes look of the relocation effort.

Full story: https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/goat-relocation-in-olympic-national-forest-an-in-depth-look/979637777

Engineering answers for Spirit Lake

An aerial view to the south of Mount St. Helens in 1982 as another lahar—melted snow and volcanic rock (think wet cement)—occurred. When the lahar encountered the debris blockage from 1980, part of it flowed into Spirit Lake (bottom left), while the rest flowed west into the Loowit Creek drainage that flows into the upper North Fork Toutle River. USGS photo by Tom Casadevall.

In Science Findings #218, “The Spirit Lake Dilemma: Engineering a Solution for a Lake with a Problematic Outlet,” USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station writers explore new research into the future repair or replacement of an outflow tunnel at Spirit Lake, on Mount St. Helens.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 fundamentally transformed the surrounding landscape, triggering geophysical processes that are still unfolding.

Spirit Lake, with Mount St. Helens, Washington, in the background (2015). A debris avalanche triggered by a volcanic eruption on May 18, 1980, blocked the lake’s natural outlet. A tunnel was built to safely remove water from the lake and minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding to communities downstream. Maintaining the tunnel is expensive, so long-term solutions are being explored. USDA Forest Service photo by Rhonda Mazza.

Among them was a debris avalanche caused by the eruption, that blocked the outlet from Spirit Lake to the North Fork Toutle River.

To prevent the rising lake level from breaching the blockage and potentially flooding communities downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an outlet tunnel to maintain safe lake levels.

However, the tunnel must be periodically closed for repairs, during which time the lake level rises.

Prolonged closures, combined with increased volume from melting rainfall and snow in the spring, could allow the water level to rise high enough to breach the natural dam.

In 2015, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest commissioned a study to assess risks associated with alternative outlet options.

A team consisting of researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Oregon State University authored the study.

At the team’s request, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a dam safety risk-assessment of long-term solutions: maintaining the existing tunnel, rehabilitating the tunnel, creating an open channel across the blockage, or installing a buried conduit across the blockage.

The assessment determined that there is no risk-free way to remove water from Spirit Lake, but the likelihood is generally low that these solutions will fail.

With this information, the Forest Service is moving forward with developing a long-term solution to managing the Spirit Lake outlet.


Source information: Rhonda Mazza is a public affairs specialist for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, which publishes Science Findings. Find past Science Findings at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/.

Apply early for seasonal jobs with USDA Forest Service

We're Hiring! Join our Summer, 2020 team! Seasonal positions are available in multiple fields, including fire, recreation, natural resources, timber, engineering, visitor services, and archaeology. Apply Sept. 16-30, 2019 on www.usajobs.gov. For more information about jobs in the Pacific Northwest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/jobs.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Sept. 10, 2019)  The USDA Forest Service will accept applications for more than 1,000 seasonal spring and summer jobs in Oregon and Washington from Sept. 16 – 30, 2019.

Positions are available in multiple fields, including fire, recreation, natural resources, timber, engineering, visitor services, and archaeology.

Applications must be submitted on www.USAJOBS.gov between Sept. 16 – 30, 2019.

More information about seasonal employment, available positions, and application instructions can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/jobs. Job descriptions, including a link to submit applications, will be posted to www.USAJOBS.gov on Sept. 16.

Interested applicants are encouraged to create a profile on USAJOBS in advance to save time once the hiring process begins.

“We’re looking for talented, diverse applicants to help us manage over 24 million acres of public land in the Pacific Northwest,” Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester, said. “If you’re interested in caring for our national forests and serving local communities, I encourage you to apply.”

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

The Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region includes 17 National Forests, a National Scenic Area, a National Grassland, and two National Volcanic Monuments, all within the States of Oregon and Washington. These public lands provide timber for people, forage for cattle and wildlife, habitat for fish, plants, and animals, and some of the best recreation opportunity in the country.

News release in English, русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish):

Forest Service hiring. Temporary jobs. Apply on USAJobs.gov September 16-30, 2019. Recreation, forestry, wildlife, archaeology, engineering, hydrology, range, biology, firefighting, visitor information services, and more. The USDA Forest Service is hiring for seasonal jobs across the country. Temporary and seasonal jobs are a great way to gain experience, work outdoors, and explore different careers. #WorkForNature fs.fed.us/fsjobs

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region public affairs (press release)

Forest Service partners to extend outreach in Slavic community

USDA Forest Service staff, Slavic Family Media employees, and their families gather for a group photo following the signing of a partnership agreement July 17, 2019. The media company manages a number of Russian-language news and information platforms serving the Slavic community in and around Portland, Ore. and across the Pacific Northwest. Under the agreement, the group will assist the agency in translating and sharing Forest Service information about conservation, permits, fire prevention, recreation. volunteerism, and other public lands news and information for the Slavic community through spring, 2020. USDA Forest Service photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Aug 20, 2019) — The USDA Forest Service has signed an agreement with Slavic Family Media to expand the agency’s outreach to the Russian -speaking immigrant and refugee community in and around the Portland metro, which includes Multnomah County, Ore. and Clark County, Wash.

“Our community loves recreating, and they love to hike, camp, and enjoy day trips to harvest mushrooms and berries. Our goal as a community organization is to ensure make sure that our people our members have the proper information and resources to do so safely and legally,” Timur Holove, the media organization’s creative director, said. “We want to give our audience this valuable information in their native language so they can understand and take advantage of all the programs offered by the U.S. Forest Service,” some of which they may not have even known existed, he said.

To underscore the importance of this outreach effort to the agency, the agreement was signed live, on-air, by Nick Pechneyuk, Slavic Family Media chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore.

From left: Timur Holove, creative director for Slavic Family Media, Nick Pechneyuk, chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, on the set at Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. July 17, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo.

“This agreement … is really another step forward in our commitment to shared stewardship, and expanding our engagement to broader audiences, like the Slavic family,” Casamassa said during the July 17 signing. “This is a great opportunity, for us, noth only for this generation, but for future generations as well, to be able to work together.”

The agreement that outlines how the two organizations will work together to bring information about the national forest system to the Russian-language speaking population in and around Portland, Ore.

“We’re providing information that we need disseminated to the Slavic population,” Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, said. “And what we are providing is information that they can use – about recreation, and special use permits for special forest products, such as mushrooms, huckleberries, Christmas trees – things that are special to this community. These are opportunities that public lands offer, and this demographic will now have better opportunities to access these public lands and services.”

Under the agreement, Slavic Family Media will translate information provided by the Forest Service into Russian, then communicate it via the company’s various Russian-language media platforms. These include television, radio, a website, social media, and print publications – including a newspaper, business journal, and a magazine that, combined, potentially reach more than 150,000 Russian -speakers across the Pacific Northwest.

Information will include conservation education, recreation, and land stewardship topics, wildland fire prevention and preparedness information, and information about special places on nearby National Forest lands, such as the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Hood National Forest, and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Terry said.

From left: Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, pose with an example of a wildland fire prevention product that was translated into Russian while at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. for the July 17, 2019 partnership signing ceremony. USDA Forest Service photo.

The Slavic language family is diverse, consisting of languages that include Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldova. But many immigrants from former Soviet countries learned to speak, read, and write in Russian in school, or from family members who were taught in Russian and otherwise discouraged by that government from using their native language in public life, prior to the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.

After English and Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian are the 3rd largest language-group spoken in Oregon. Large Slavic communities are also present in Washington State, in the Seattle-Tacoma metro, and smaller populations of Russian-language speakers are found in several areas of rural Washington and Oregon.

In the U.S., English, is the language most often used for communicating government information, placing non-fluent speakers at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving information or from benefiting fully from public services – including public lands, and specifically opportunities available on National Forests and Grasslands.

Terry said that while working on this partnership and related Slavic outreach efforts, she’s learned many in the community deeply value opportunities to spend time in the outdoors, and are very interested in information that will expand their opportunities to access public lands.

“Fishing is a huge area of interest. So is finding places the family can gather, and make memories,” she said, noting that Christmas tree -cutting permits and the Every Kid Outdoors (formerly, Every Kid in a Park) program for fourth-graders have been a particularly strong draw in previous Forest Service engagements with Portland’s Slavic community. “They’re wanting to know more about what the regulations are, so they can access those places. We’ll be sharing a lot of information, about our special places and how to access them, so they can do that.”

Terry said she hopes the Forest Service’s partnership with Slavic Family Media will help more members of this community find connect with public lands stewardship and volunteer opportunities, as well.

“These are public lands. They are for everyone, and we are all responsible for them,” she said.

Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa will also deliver remarks to the Slavic community Sept. 1, 2019 at the Slavic Family Festival 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Gateway Discovery Park (10520 NE Halsey St.; Portland, Ore.). Casamassa will deliver his remarks at approx. 11 a.m. The agency will have employees present to provide forest user information throughout the day, and Smokey Bear is scheduled to make an appearance at the event.

From the Memorandum of Agreement (signed July 19):

  • National Forest System lands are open and welcoming to everyone.  Slavic Family Media and USDA Forest Service value the opportunity to communicate and highlight National Forest recreation opportunities, forest products, eco therapy, forest safety, smoke health, fire recovery information, conservation education, volunteer and employment opportunities and National Forest System events to audiences primarily in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area through multimedia opportunities. 
  • The partnership between Slavic Family Media and the USDA Forest Service signifies our partnership and commitment to connecting Russian-speaking communities to national forest lands and Forest Service engagement opportunities. 
  • The USDA Forest Service is committed to shared stewardship to protect public lands and deliver benefits to the people and communities we serve in Oregon and Washington. 
  • Through Slavic Family Media, the USDA Forest Service aims to leverage its communications and reach the Slavic community through bilingual (Russian and English) print, radio, and social media platforms.  This partnership initially became effective in March 2019.

Watch the signing ceremony, here:

USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region and Slavic Family Media partnership signing; July 17, 2019.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement (staff report)

Backcountry Horsemen volunteers help build 66-foot bridge

From left: Tristan Rivers, Sawyer Meegan, and Taylen Howland, all USDA Forest Service employees assigned to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument backcountry recreation crew, build a rock gabion that supports a 6' tall earth-covered ramp to a new 66-foot equestrian bridge over Fossil Trail #242 on Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington. USDA Forest Service photo, 2019.

AMBOY, Wash. (Aug. 19, 2019) — Backcountry Horsemen of Washington‘s Mount St. Helens Chapter and the USDA Forest Service’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently completed a 66-foot equestrian bridge over a creek on Fossil Trail #242, located in the southwest corner of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (near Goat Mountain).

Decades ago, the trail was an active logging road, with a bridge that connected both sides of the narrow gorge. Equestrians have long been interested in replacing the bridge to provide better access to what is now a non-motorized loop trail for riders on horseback, Camille Stephens, Recreation Assistant for the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, said.

While hikers and even mountain bikers could climb down the gorge’s steep embankment to ford the creek, the embankment was too treacherous for horses, and most riders, such as those staying at the nearby Kalama Horse Camp, were forced to experience the loop only as two disconnected segments, she said.

Forest Service employees Dean Robertson and John Cruse install bridge stringers. USDA Forest Service photo
Forest Service employees Dean Robertson and John Cruse install bridge stringers. USDA Forest Service photo

The non-profit organization had secured grant funding for the project several years earlier, and USDA Forest Service employees placed the bridge’s supporting beams in 2018.

The Backcountry Horsemen volunteers installed the bridge’s decking later that same year.

Backcountry Horsemen of Washington members Jim Anderson and Mitch Hensley use a skidsteer to build the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.
Backcountry Horsemen of Washington members Jim Anderson and Mitch Hensley use a skidsteer to build the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.

This summer, agency employees from the forest’s Mt. Adams Ranger District and Backcountry Horsemen volunteers worked together to complete a 6′ tall rock and gabion support structure for a ramp leading up to the bridge. The structure was then covered in dirt to create an approach to the bridge.

“This trail is now ready to be hiked, biked, or ridden,” Stephens said. “I think all of the partners involved should be very proud of bringing this project to fruition.”

Forest Service employee Camille Stephens harvests rock for the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.
Forest Service employee Camille Stephens harvests rock for the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest – Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument recreation staff.

Fire season safety tips for smoke-sensitive persons, drivers

Smoke blowing over a roadway nearly obscures USDA Forest Service wildland fire truck (WA-OWF E644) and a wildland firefighter from the camera's view.

While the “fire season” is off to a slower-than-normal start in many parts of the Pacific Northwest, fires like the Milepost 97 are here and ready to remind fire isn’t the only seasonal hazard to watch for. There are also two, other, closely related risks faced by our firefighters and our community during the season: smoke and motor vehicle traffic.

Even small fires can send a lot of smoke into nearby roadways. Sometimes, even smoke drift from distant fires can create enough haze to reduce visibility. That reduced visibility is a risk to pedestrians, other motorists (including those in or responding to disabled vehicles along the road shoulder), and even firefighters working nearby.

If you’re traveling in areas with nearby fire activity, be careful and use extra caution. In addition to reduced or poor visibility, you may encounter heavy equipment and firefighting trucks on the road. Drive carefully, slow down, and give plenty of space to firefighters and fire vehicles. Use extra caution when driving in smoke-filled conditions; debris, disabled vehicles and pedestrians may be concealed from view until you’re vehicle is just a few feet away.

Follow these tips to keep yourself and others, including firefighters and smoke-sensitive loved ones, safe!

  • If your travel plans require you to drive on routes that are impacted by fire or firefighting activity, consider alternate travel dates and/or routes.
  • If you must drive, pay close attention to road closures and warnings.
  • Be alert! Fire activity and subsequent operations can change quickly.  Adapt driving patterns accordingly and always yield to emergency responders.
  • Navigation applications on smart phones or other devices (GPS / maps) may not accurately reflect changing conditions. Watch out for changing local conditions and detours.
  • Plan ahead. If you live in a fire-prone area (which is all of us, in the Pacific Northwest!), keep your gas tank filled at least 3/4 full at all times. Maintain a clean air filter, and carry paper map or road atlas to assist you in travelling in areas with limited cell phone reception. Bring an extra cell phone charger (and battery back-up); make sure you have a spare tire and jack; and carry extra water, food, a first aid kit and a blanket in your vehicle at all times.
  • Remove unnecessary flammables from the vehicle, such as containers of gas and oil.
  • Stay calm and focus on driving tasks. Drivers should not be texting, taking photos or video footage, no matter what is unfolding around them!
  • Keep headlights “on” for safety when driving.
  • Keep vehicle windows closed when travelling through smoke, and close all exterior air vents; set air conditioning to the “recirculation” setting.
  • Smoke-filled air can also impact health at home, particularly for young children, the elderly, and for people with chronic heart or lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and COPD. If possible, maintain a “clean room” at home in which air can be filtered by an appropriately-sized filtration system; ideally, a True HEPA filter rated to remove 99.97% of particles of .3 microns or larger, paired with an activated charcoal filter to trap volatile organic compounds. (An air ionizer may also be helpful, but discuss your plans with a doctor as not everyone is a good candidate. Those with sensitive lungs should only run an ionizer while away from home to avoid breathing ionized particles, and people who are sensitive to ozone should not use ionizers).
  • Plan ahead! It’s important for everyone to have an emergency evacuation plan, but it is especially important for those with special needs, pets, or who do not have access to a motor vehicle to plan ahead. Find advice on emergency preparedness planning at RedCross.org and at Ready.gov.

Planning travel, and need the latest traffic, smoke and safety updates? These websites can help!

August is Fire Hire season for Forest Service in WA, OR

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region.

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 31, 2019) — The annual “fire hire” hiring event for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region opens Aug. 1, 2019.

The Forest Service is looking for committed, hardworking, highly-skilled employees to support wildfire suppression, fuels reduction and other fire management work on 17 National Forests in Oregon and Washington.

The fire and aviation program features rewarding opportunities for candidates with seasonal wildland firefighting experience to pursue challenging, full-time positions with the agency.

The agency uses the centralized, annual “fire hire” process for hiring most positions in the region’s permanent fire management workforce.

Specialized opportunities being offered include dispatch, engine crew positions, fuels technicians, hand crew members, helitack crew members, hotshot crew remembers, smokejumpers, and fire prevention and education specialists.

Opportunities will be posted at www.usajobs.gov, with an application window of Aug. 1-28, 2019.

Vacancy announcements for seasonal opportunities during the summer, 2020 wildland fire season – which includes the majority of the region’s entry-level and trainee fire management opportunities – will be posted to USAJobs in September, 2019.

“Fire Hire” timeline:

  • Aug. 1, 2019: Vacancy announcements are posted to USAJobs.
  • Aug. 28, 2019: Application deadline, 7:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (10:59 p.m. EDT, or 11:59 EST). Applicants are encouraged to read all vacancy announcements carefully prior to applying, and ensure all required documents are included with their submission. Applicants are also encouraged to apply for multiple locations (where they would accept a position if offered), even if positions for certain locations are not listed as vacant, as vacancies may occur during the hiring process and could be filled during Selection Week.
  • Oct. 15-31, 2019: Supervisory Reference Checks, and Subject Matter Expert evaluations occur during these weeks. Please ensure your references are notified of this and they are available at the email address (preferred) or phone number provided on your application.
  • Nov. 4-22, 2019: Selection week. Representatives from each forest will make recommendations for hiring, and candidates selected will be notified by a Forest Service representative by phone. Those not selected should check their USAJobs account for status updates. During the selection week candidates will be given 4 hours to respond to voicemails or emails from the recommending officials. It is highly encouraged candidates plan be available via phone during this time!
  • March, 2020: Earliest possible effective date for new hires.

Note: Where Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) and Forest Service – Fire Program Management (FS-FPM) qualifications are required, these qualifications must be met prior to the closing date on the vacancy being applied for. Applicants with relevant fire certifications or experience must provide a current copy of their IQCS Master Record, where indicated in the announcement, to meet qualification requirements for positions with IQCS requirements.

For more information: Visit https://go.usa.gov/xyfx8.

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region. Apply on www.usajobs.gov August 1-28.
The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s next “Fire Hire” hiring event is Aug. 1-28, 2019 at https://www.usajobs.gov. Applicants are encouraged to apply for current and potential vacancies at all locations they are interested in being considered for, for a variety of permanent, full-time positions supporting fire and aviation management programs on 17 National Forests in Washington and Oregon, with projected start dates in spring-summer, 2020.

Smokey Bear 75th birthday celebrations Aug. 9-10

Smokey Bear waves from a wildland fire truck, accompanied by a uniformed Forest Service employee.

(Updated Aug. 5, 2019). Smokey Bear turns 75 years old this year, and the U.S. Forest Service’s fire prevention is still hard at work, promoting wildland fire safety and prevention of human-caused fires on public lands, including our National Forests. Smokey stars in television, radio and internet public service announcements. His image is found in coloring books, and on stickers. Each year, he appears at dozens of community events across the Pacific Northwest.

Smokey’s story begins Aug. 9, 1944, when the the Ad Council created a fictional bear to serve as the mascot for the U.S. Forest Service’s fire prevention efforts. But when a bear cub was saved by firefighters during a wildfire in New Mexico in 1950, news of this real-life “Smokey’s” rescue spread quickly across the nation and provided a real-life icon for promoting fire safety and wildfire prevention. 

He received so many gifts of honey and an outpouring of mail that he was assigned his own zip code!

Celebrate with Smokey at events around the country this summer, including these upcoming Washington and Oregon -based events:

Friday, Aug. 9:

  • Siuslaw National Forest hosts Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday Party from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center in Yachats, Ore. Enjoy birthday cake, learn about fire ecology on the Siuslaw National Forest, and with Smokey a “happy birthday” in person, at the party!
  • Colville National Forest will celebrate Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday with cake from 10 a.m – noon at the Forest Headquarters (765 S. Main St.; Colville, WA). Smokey will be available for photos at this location from 10 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
  • Colville National Forest will also celebrate Smokey’s birthday with the community by hosting games and giveaways from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Chewelah Farmers Market (Chewelah City Park: N Park Street (U.S. 395) and E. Lincoln Ave.; Chewelah, WA). Forest staff will be there to answer questions, offer forest and fire prevention information, and host activities and games. Smokey will be available for photos from noon-12:30 p.m., weather permitting.
  • Tillamook Forest Center celebrates Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday, 1:30-3:30 p.m. with cake, prizes, songs, and games. Don’t leave these birthday candles unattended—only YOU can help Smokey celebrate in style! Programs are free, and open to Smokey Bear fans of all ages. For more details, call (503) 815-6800, visit the forest’s website, or visit the forest’s on Facebook

Saturday, Aug. 10

  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Friends of Fort Vancouver, and the National Park Service will celebrate Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center (1501 E. Evergreen Blvd.; Vancouver, WA), 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Children and their families are invited to this free event for fun activities, historical Smokey Bear videos, wildfire prevention safety information, and to Smokey Bear a happy birthday. Children in attendance will have the opportunity to become USDA Forest Service Junior Rangers. Come enjoy a piece of birthday cake with Smokey to celebrate this milestone birthday! Smokey Bear-themed items and national forest recreation maps will be available for purchase in the Friends of Fort Vancouver bookstore.
  • The Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Ore. celebrates Smokey’s 75th birthday during August’s “TREEMendous” Second Saturday event. The museum will have birthday treats, Smokey-related crafts, and an in-person visit from Smokey Bear himself! The museum is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults ($7 for seniors), and $5 for children/teens ages 18 and under (children under 3 are admitted free of charge).
  • Celebrate Smokey’s 75th birthday with activities for all ages, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center (15212 State Hwy. 97A; Entiat, WA). Climb the stairs of an historic fire lookout to hear a former lookout describe his experiences and responsibilities, play games, interact with real wildland firefighters and learn about their fire gear, tools and engines, hug Smokey, and sing happy birthday to him as you enjoy a slice of cake!

For more information about Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday, educational activities, and special celebration events planned across the U.S., visit: https://www.smokeybear75th.org.

Illustration of Smokey Bear and a sign reading "Years preventing wildfires: 75. Happy Birthday, Smokey!"
Smokey Bear celebrates his 75th birthday Aug. 9, 2019! Learn more at https://www.smokeybear75th.org.

Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release), Siuslaw National Forest (press release), Smokey’s 75th Birthday website (https://www.smokeybear75th.org).

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

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