USDA Forest Service - Walla Walla Range District’s Hardwood Management Program (Aspens and Cottonwoods)
Interning for the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Walla Walla Range District Office, Hardwood Management Program increased my awareness of what steps it takes to maintain forests and wooded areas in the Walla Walla area and around the country. The Walla Walla Range District sustains over a hundred stands of aspens and cottonwoods in the Umatilla National Forest and the surrounding area. The tree stands are maintained with pole fences and periodic checkups. The fence railings deter large animals from eating and destroying young shoots, while the height of the fencing prevents deer from jumping in and trampling new growth. Being an assistant for the Walla Walla Range District’s Hardwood Management Program consisted of starting and arranging a binder system documenting these aspen and cottonwood stands. Organization of the binder system is an annual task, in terms of updating photos, forms, files, and GIS maps. The photo-editing portion of the project was completed at both the district office and at other locations with the photos stored on a zip disc. Updating files, forms, and GIS maps were done on computers at the Walla Walla Range District office.
The Hardwood Management Program initially attracted me because of my interest in the Forest Service and the office was closer to campus. What I didn’t realize is, by the middle of the semester, my understanding about hardwood trees had increased my intellectual curiosity so much, that I could relate my newfound knowledge to my schoolwork. As a whole, my internship amplified my comprehension and learning of environmental studies in school; for example, in biology 112, the concept of hardwood versus softwood was easily grasped, and in geology 210, I applied my knowledge of measuring townships and ranges learned from my internship to our map building in geo lab. This internship provided me with an excellent educational and professional experience, in the USFS and in the environmental studies field.
The second half of my internship was more hands on and fast paced, because my sponsor and I had worked out a schedule that worked best for the both of us. I would come in once a week and work with pictures, either editing them or printing them out, and if needed, I would come in twice a week to print more. On the last day of my internship, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service Interns and I had the chance to see what we had worked on, outside of the office. Our sponsors took us on an excursion to the Jarboe and Brock Meadows in the Umatilla National Forest, two hours away, to witness working in the field. We had the pleasure of examining the meadows and surrounding wooded area, including the stands of trees that I edited photos for, and even seeing wild animals, like elk. Over the past few years, many restoration projects in the Jarboe and Brock meadows have been done and many more are in the works. My internship involved the young aspen and cottonwoods that have been fenced in at least 21 of the over 100 sites. A past internship involved culverts being removed and the Forest Service reintroducing beavers into the creek in order to stabilize the banks of Jarboe creek. Our sponsors told us that the fallen pine cones in the meadows are collected for spring planting every year by youth groups and the Army Corps of Engineers. We were also informed that sheep and cattle grazing allotments have not been renewed due to its impacts on the meadows. The field trip was a nice way to bring together the different internships, along with gaining some experience of working in and out of the office.
The main goal of my internship was to set up and organize a binder system for the district’s Hardwood Management Program (specifically Aspen and Cottonwood trees). There were several objectives to this program, but the main intention was to update hardwood survey forms and photo point forms with the most recent information in order to establish what is outdated in the field. Other objectives included; replacing and organizing the existing folders that incorporated over a hundred trees stands that were maintained by the USFS, clearing up electronic photos of these tree stands, and printing out updated forms and photos. I completed all the objectives and started a number of tables for photos, fences, and work that needed to be updated in the field during this summer. My sponsor claims this is an annual process, in order to have current photos of the stands year round, as well assessing that the fencing is functional at all times, keeping the deer out.
I accomplished fully updating the binder system for the Hardwood Management Program for the spring of 2003. The photos, forms, files, and GIS maps for over a hundred aspen and cottonwood stands are now updated in a clear and organized way. Microsoft Publisher was used to organize and generate the layout of the photos and data, and the camera point form data was prepared through charts in Microsoft Word and Excel.
My main responsibilities at the USFS involved working with Kathy Campbell, the Information Specialist. She was in charge of sustaining over a hundred Aspen and Cottonwood tree stands in the Umatilla National Forest and the surrounding area. Each stand of trees had several photo points (complete with pictures), signs posted proclaiming USFS property, and quite a few of the tree stands had surrounding fencing. My job was to organize the information on these tree stands and establish a table of what information needed to be updated this summer in the field. Kathy Campbell is extremely knowledgeable about the Umatilla National Forest and has been working for the Forest Service for almost 20 years. She is very passionate about her work, and often gets very excited about new projects and ideas. Kathy was a pleasure to work with, especially since she treated me as an associate coworker, asking for suggestions and listening to advice.
Some of the difficulties with this internship included transportation and communication. The USFS Walla Walla Range District is located on 1415 W. Rose St., nearly 3 miles away from campus. Originally, a fellow intern and I thought biking would be an option, but due to the weather in Walla Walla, we opted for cars every week. The trouble was that neither Katy Newhouse nor I had cars, so we had to borrow one every time. My other main challenge was initially communicating with Kathy Campbell, when she needed me and what she wanted me to do. Drawing up our list of objectives gave me a good idea of what needed to be done in a semester, but Kathy was often a little busy with other projects and this internship wasn’t her first priority. Although Kathy Campbell has much strength, one of her weaknesses seems to be technology. Luckily, by the end of the semester, we got used to each other and communication no longer became a problem.
My recommendation to future environmental internship students would be keep good records and be in charge of your duties for your internship. Communicating was one of my few problems, and it is important to have good relations and a professional attitude with your contact/internship. Thanks to the Hardwood Management Program and Kathy Campbell’s help, I’ve gained new information applicable to my major (Environmental Studies-Biology) and to the trees I plant with my family at home.
Kathy Campbell was my key contact at the USFS and is in charge of the Hardwood Management Program at the USFS Walla Walla Range District Office. She is easily contacted by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). The USFS District Office is a great source of information on Hardwood trees, the Umatilla National Forest, and the surrounding area of Walla Walla.