Eastern Region News & Notes October 21 - November 10, 2018



Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Hundreds Celebrate America’s National Mammal at Midewin on National Bison Day [photo 1, photo 2, photo 3]

Nearly 300 people visited the Midewin on Saturday, Nov. 3 to celebrate National Bison Day. A herd of conservation bison was introduced at Midewin in 2015, and six months later legislation was signed honoring bison as America’s first National Mammal. To celebrate National Bison Day this year, Midewin collaborated on a Bison Crawl with the Forest Preserve District of Will County, Pullman National Monument, the Wilmington Public Library, the Manhattan-Elwood Public Library and Two Hounds Antiques in Wilmington. At Midewin, an award-winning group of volunteers, managed by the Nature Conservancy in Illinois, is monitoring to see if the grazing of the herd, which creates more varied grass lengths, is encouraging the return of native Illinois prairie insects, plants, birds and other species.


Shawnee National Forest

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Hoosier National Forest

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Hiawatha National Forest

Fourth Graders Tour Lighthouse Thanks to Interagency Grant [photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4, photo 5, photo 6]

Fourth grade students from Pickford Elementary went to Hiawatha National Forest’s Point Iroquois Lighthouse on Friday, October 26. Students learned about the historical significance of the Point Iroquois Lighthouse and climbed the lighthouse tower to see the amazing view from the top. Students also learned how navigation techniques have changed over time, used a compass to find cardinal directions, and discovered how to take a bearing. A partner ranger from the National Park Service led a guided hike on the boardwalk to practice Leave No Trace to help students better understand how they can be stewards of their federal lands and waters. This school was awarded transportation funds through a generous grant from the National Park Foundation, which has funded this interagency field trip grant program for the past four years. Partners include Hiawatha National Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Seney National Wildlife, and Michigan State University Extension. By the end of the 2018-2019 school year, over 1,000 students will participate in this interagency program and receive the Every Kid in a Park pass to encourage future visits to other federal lands and waters.

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Ottawa National Forest

Partnering with State Agencies to Provide Positive Work Experiences

What does it take for a tree to grow to be healthy and strong? If the seedling takes root in an environment with the right balance of sunlight, water, nutritious soil, and protection, the tree will thrive. If the environment is not suitable, the tree will not grow to its full potential. 

With this concept in mind, federal, state and local agencies are looking to grow a forest of skilled employees.  Working with the Michigan Dept. of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), the Ottawa National Forest has implemented a work-based learning program that provides individuals with disabilities first hand work experiences in a professional setting. 

The goal of this program is to provide individuals with the opportunity to learn valuable skills to obtain employment with the federal government, secure stable income and benefits, and gain the opportunity for career advancement that is often limited in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  To make this program successful, it takes matching the right candidate with the right job and creating an environment that is respectful, nurturing, and accepting.  Through the efforts of many staff at both MDHHS and the Ottawa National Forest, the first year of this program has resulted in MDHHS customers learning clerical duties at the SO of the Ottawa National Forest, customer services skills and retail duties at the Visitor Center, and laborer and construction skills at the J. W. Toumey Nursery and Ranger Station. 

One of the program’s participants was recently hired as a temporary employee after completing a work-based learning experience.  This program has been a win/win for both agencies and our employees. Improved relationships and communication has even resulted in the Ottawa National Forest hiring four MDHHS customers through the Schedule A process. 

In 2018 the Ottawa National Forest received a “Business Partner Champion” award from the State of Michigan.



Chippewa National Forest

Chippewa Employees Make a Difference through Wildfire Assignments [photo]

In 2018, Chippewa National Forest employees filled 103 orders for out-of-state assignments from Minnesota Interagency Fire Center. Individuals worked as crew boss, squad boss, helicopter crew members and helicopter managers. Minnesotans also filled positions as task force leaders, multi-agency coordinators, base camp manager, public information officers and security.

The season started early, with firefighters responding to wildfires on the Mark Twain and Hoosier National Forests in early March. Engine crews provided prescribed burn support and responded to a number of wildfires in the south and west. In June and July, Chippewa National Forest firefighters were dispatched to southern Colorado and north to Ontario, Canada. Other firefighters went out on severity details to the Superior National Forest and assisted with prescribed burns within the Eastern Region.

By August, the country was at National Preparedness Level 5 (the highest potential for severe wildfires), and fire crews and forest “militia” were sent out to Oregon, Washington and California. Rob Focht, Engine Captain, was sent on a 30-day assignment for the Washington Military Activation out of Joint Base Lewis and McChord. He met with three strike team leaders, 16 crew bosses and overhead for 10 military crews (250 people) put together. Much of this 30-day assignment was spent training young firefighters for work on wildfires in California. This was one of three details Focht went on in 2018, and one of many unique stories heard from firefighters across the Forest.

On this small northern Minnesota Forest, there are 72 employees who are red-carded. Take a moment to thank a wildland firefighter this week—after this busy fire season, they all deserve our gratitude.


Partnership with University of Minnesota Leads to 18th Year of Bud Capping [photo]

On October 18, the Natural Resources Club at the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) arrived on the Chippewa National Forest to help with bud capping.

The first year UMC placed bud caps on white pine seedlings and saplings on the Chippewa was 2001. This year marks the 18th year the club has come to the Forest bud capping. Nine students along with their advisors Phil Baird and Tom Feiro and Forest employee Tristan Michaelson bud capped five acres on the Blackduck district. The purpose of bud capping is to protect white pine seedlings and saplings from deer browsing (eating the buds). Bud caps are pieces of recycled paper (8 ½ x 11” paper that’s cut into 6-8 pieces) that are stapled into needles by each seedling’s terminal bud.

The Natural Resources Club is made up of students studying natural resource management, ecological restoration, aviation, law enforcement, park management, water resource management, and wildlife management. The club focuses on opportunities for members to grow as natural resource professionals. Student club activities are heavily focused on the hands-on aspects of vegetation and wildlife habitat management, environmental education, and service projects.  The club has also done tree planting on the Forest for 36 years.  Rob Heavirland, current Chippewa Superior Aviation Officer, was part of the chapter’s planting crew on the Forest in 1991.

Chippewa Employees Contribute 1074 Pounds of Food to FFF Campaign!

Once again, the Chippewa National Forest participated in the annual Feds Feed Families (FFF) campaign. The 2018 campaign started on July 15, 2018 and ended on October 18, 2018.

The Chippewa National Forest kicked off the campaign with a 2 + 1 potluck at the Forest supervisor’s office. Each employee was encouraged to bring two canned goods and 1 dry good.  After the kick off weekly contributions were brought to 79.2 pounds a local food shelf in Cass Lake.   The Feds Feed Families Campaign measures results through pounds of food collected and the Chippewa National Forest employees contributed 1074 pounds of food.  Last year’s contribution was 512 pounds.

“It is great that as employees we are giving back to the communities that we live and work in,” Tyrone Clark said. Clark coordinated the 2018 FFF efforts for the Chippewa National Forest.

Feds Feed Families was created to help food banks and pantries stay stocked during summer months when they traditionally see a decrease in donations and an increase in need. In Washington, D.C., the Capital Area Food Bank receives collections and distributes them through its network of more than 500 partner organizations. Through the amazing generosity of federal employees, the annual food drive has collected nearly 80 million pounds of food since the campaign began in 2009. Last year more than 10.4 million pounds were donated and provided to food banks and pantries.


Superior National Forest

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Mark Twain National Forest

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Wayne National Forest

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Allegheny National Forest

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Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests

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West Virginia

Monongahela National Forest

USAID Staff Visit Monongahela National Forest for Sustainable Landscapes Training [photo]

In October of 2018, the Monongahela National Forest hosted 41 experts in sustainable landscapes for a three-day training session sponsored by United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The group visited the Forest as part of their Sustainable Landscapes Advanced Training course and included attendees from El Salvador, Peru, India, Indonesia, Colombia, Malawi, Cambodia, Sudan, Zambia, Mexico, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, West Africa, Philippines, Guatemala, and Madagascar.     The USAID Advanced Training for Sustainable Landscapes Experts course aims to enhance the capacity of USAID staff to design, manage, and monitor effective sustainable landscapes programs. Themes included financing, geospatial tools, design, and measuring impact and communicating results. Forest staff shared the sustainable landscape vision for Monongahela National Forest, including methods for engaging with communities and partners.   

The USAID sustainable landscapes programs help host countries improve their land management. These programs, which include long-term agricultural and forest productivity as well as ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, are central to supporting partner countries on the journey to self-reliance. According to USAID, improving land management is also a global imperative: it strengthens a country’s resilience from shocks and stresses, protects the health and wellbeing of its people, conserves biodiversity, and can abate 20% to 60% of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

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