Voices from the Umpqua National Forest - Staci Cotton - Interview

Where did you grow up? I was born in Roseburg, Oregon, but I did not grow up there. I have lived in five different towns throughout Oregon and Idaho. You could say that I grew up in the mountains of the Northwest.

When did you start with the U.S. Forest Service and where and doing what? I started working for the Forest Service in summer 2006 as a member of a Youth Conservation Corps out of the Middle Fork Ranger Station on the Willamette National Forest. During the eight weeks of my employment I did everything from trail work to litter patrol. It was a good job where I gained a lot of work experience that I use now in my current Forest Service job. This is my third season working with the Diamond Lake Ranger District as a Wildland Firefighter.

[PHOTO: Engine 334 at Cinnamon Butte Lookout]What does working in the Forest Service mean to you? Working in the Forest Service means to me that I work for an agency that prides itself in hard work, integrity, and protecting our natural resources. Working in the Forest Service also means that I have the chance to work with a wide variety of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. The Forest Service also gives me the chance to move anywhere in the country if I wanted to. The best part of working for the Forest Service is knowing that in someway or another I am making a contribution to our national forests.

Describe a typical day on the job? A typical day starts at 9:30 a.m. Early in the season we would take an hour for physical training but later in the year we do not. After physical training or right at 9:30 a.m. we have a morning briefing where we listen to the weather for the day and find out what our assignments are for the shift. If there are no fires we keep busy doing project work such as making piles from cut brush, brushing out roads so they are more drivable, to other odds and ends that need to be completed. We usually come back to the station around 5 p.m. where we clean rigs (vehicles), put away gear, and stay busy until end of shift at 6 p.m.

What is the worst job you’ve ever done in the Forest Service? The worst job I have ever done is when I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps and we had to pick up people's trash that they had thrown into the forest. The trash could contain everything from old, rotten food to dirty, smelly diapers. The smells would make my stomach churn but luckily I never lost my cookies.

What is the best day on the job in the Forest Service? The best day on the job is when there is always something going on. It's one of those days that you just do not know where the time went. There is also a feeling that I get knowing that I did a job well done and made a difference in some way or another.

What is a piece of equipment you always take with you? I always carry my little pocket knife. It is not a big piece of equipment but I always use it at least once during the day.

What is your favorite place on the Umpqua National Forest? My favorite place on the Umpqua National Forest is anywhere up in the high mountains. I love how the air feels different, so clean and pure. The views are also amazing! I would have to recommend Potter Mountain, around Mt. Bailey, and up the Fish Creek Valley as some must-sees.

What was your college major? I am a Business major with a focus in Marketing and minor in Communications.

Any pets? My boyfriend and I have one dog named Duke. He is a two-year-old Beagle and he is just a ball of fun!

What are your hobbies? The hobby that takes up the most of my time is rugby. I play on my school intramural women's rugby team and when I not busy with school I am busy with rugby. I do enjoy reading immensely when I can find the time. Another hobby of mine is to collect little mementos from interesting places I have been. Over the past year it has been coasters from different restaurants that I have been to. I plan to make a collage with them and have it framed so I can hang it up on my walls as a personal piece of art.

If you could have dinner with someone famous, who would it be? I would have dinner with J.R.R. Tolkien because he is one of my favorite authors. Sadly he is dead but if I could have only been able to sit across a table from him and chat about his books and ideas I would have been very happy. I can only imagine what it was like to talk to him and listen to his stories first hand.