Maintaining a personal connection with the land: 30 years of volunteer service

For over 30 years, Jim Mower has volunteered on the Evanston-Mountain View Ranger District by arriving on Monday morning, working an entire week, and heading home to Bountiful on Fridays. His volunteering starts in May and goes through the end of September. Countless hours are spent maintaining trails, facilities, and livestock.

Jim, a former Forester employee with 29 year of service, loves volunteer work, which he attributes to his ability to maintain his connection to the land and the people it serves.

Man stands near Forest Service vehicle

After graduating college, Jim began his Forest Service career in 1961 serving as the Fishlake Assistant Ranger. By 1964, Jim was promoted to District Ranger on the Salina Ranger District, Fishlake National Forest, where he held that position for five years. He then moved to the Teton National Forest, which became the Bridger-Teton National Forest. In 1975, Jim left the Bridger-Teton and spent two years abroad in Kenya, Africa. Jim returned to the Fishlake in 1977 as a range wildlife watershed staff and later took another foreign assignment to Somalia, returning in 1985 to the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest as range wildlife watershed staff where his spent the remainder of his career.

Jim’s volunteer work began following his retirement in 1990.  Jim said, “Wayne Anderson, a ranger on Uinta-Wasatch-Cache said come volunteer.” Jim started showing up to volunteer, and just kept going over there (Bridger Lake Guard Station) because it is such a nice place. When volunteering, he resides at the Bridger Lake Guard Station on the north slope of the Uinta’s, 25 miles south of Mountain View. Year after year, Jim has painted the guard station’s roof and oiled log siding. Under Jim’s care, Bridger Lake Guard Station is one of the better maintained ranger stations in the region.

Jim has a longstanding connection with the Forest’s staff and views Forest Service personnel as the highest caliber of person. He attributes these relationships as one of the reasons for his longevity as a volunteer.  “The District staff treat me so well, I just keep going back,” he said.

Man working on hanging a panel on an old FS building

After 30 years of service, Jim has much to be proud of, but there is always more work to do. He helps the district meet its regional goals and targets by treating approximately 100 acres of noxious weed in the area on an annual basis. He repaints buildings, maintains roofs on ranger stations, maintains trails, including recreational bike trails such as the ridge trail, and keeps trails clear when beetle kill fall in the paths. 

“Jim has helped us with trail maintenance, facility maintenance, livestock management, range monitoring and permit administration. He as increased our capacities in all these areas for a very long time.” said Rick Schuler, Evanston-Mountain View Ranger District Ranger. “We are indeed thankful to Jim and appreciative of his enduring service.”

Jim’s advice to future volunteers, he says if the opportunity ever comes up to volunteer, jump on it.

“Every day is different, there is great scenery, getting to do what I want and not being tied to a desk,” said Jim. “When you live in such a nice place, it’s not much of a job; I enjoy it.”

Jim’s work benefits the community on multiple fronts, from accessibility issues, grazing permits, recreation, to maintenance of facilities we all use. When asked why volunteer work is so important, Jim said, “if nobody is taking interest, it will deteriorate fast, often the work won’t get done unless a volunteer takes interest and does it. Same with trails, especially with the bug kill. Even trail crews have to cut their way in and out after winds.”

Man posing to smile while doing work for USFS

When Jim is not busy with his volunteer work, he makes and collects cowboy spurs, bridle bits and belt buckles for several regional foresters and a Forest Service Chief as well. He has quite the collection. He also likes to travel and see his three kids, 1 daughter, who lives nearby and two sons, one in Canada and one in New Mexico.  With his combined Federal service and volunteer career, Jim has spent close to 60 years as a valued member of the U.S. Forest Service. On November 5, 2020, Jim was awarded a Regional Forester Award for 29 years of hard work, dedication, and enduring service to the Evanston-Mountain View Ranger District on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.