Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Irvin Fox-Fernandez

August 31st, 2018 at 11:15AM

A picture of Irvin Fernandez at his workstation, wearing a phone, headset.
Irvin at his desk at the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, DC (USDA Forest Service photo.)

Growing up in Chula Vista, California, Irvin Fox-Fernandez was inspired by working in the garden. Getting his hands in dirt intrigued him, and thus began his early fascination with the great outdoors, eventually the field of biology, and now a career in natural resource management.

Irvin started his federal career in 1998 working as a wildlife biologist for the National Wildlife Refuge System in San Diego and the Bureau of Land Management. Then in 2005, he started his USDA Forest Service career as a biologist and assistant resource officer on the Ojai Ranger District, Los Padres National Forest. After several intriguing job experiences on the Los Padres, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he now works in Business Operations as the executive assistant to the deputy chief.


What do you like to do for fun on your free time?

I like to spend time with my family in the outdoors, particularly to share beautiful landscapes, views, and waterfalls. As well, we enable my son’s love for baseball and watch Washington Nationals games often.


What is your favorite part of your job?

My current favorite part of the job is working on team projects and getting to know the diverse experiences of coworkers. In the past, what I loved most about my job was walking in nature. It is a phenomenal feeling to get paid to protect endangered species or take a hike to inspect a trail or habitats. Sharing those experiences with visitors and collaborating with partners was icing on the cake!


A picture of Irvin Fernandez in Forest Service uniform at a podium.
Irvin has worked for the Forest Service since 2005. (USDA Forest Service photo.)

How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?

At 18 years old, I stretched a bit to move away from home to get a zoology degree at UC Santa Barbara. I was fascinated by the garden and the outdoors growing up. I tended the garden with my dad and family, which grew into camping with the Boy Scouts and attaining Eagle Scout.

Those initiating outdoor impressions and fun experiences with friends and family were remarkable. Connecting with the outdoors has been an enduring theme for me, and I found that ultimately, all paths lead outside. After college, I spent four years working as an outdoor educator, biologist, and traveler. I trekked solo to Central America to learn Spanish and experience culture outside the U.S.

Today, my daily walk to the D.C. Metro through city neighborhoods provides a small opportunity to enjoy the culturally rich city and appreciate the leaves wavering with the wind or the clouds casting a shadow. The sound of birds still turns my head in wonder. These experiences are nature’s clock passing time, crepuscular chirping birds and sunny mid-day quiet. My energy is driven by my love for the outdoors and the related connections with family, friends, and others.


Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project that you’re currently working on. 

I’m currently supporting the Stand Up For Each Other program for the agency. It’s a great opportunity to listen to, advocate for, and learn from co-workers with an objective to embrace our diverse workforce.


Describe a professional or personal achievement that you are particularly proud of.

Making the job shift and moving from a ranger district office to D.C. three years ago was particularly challenging. The change required significant support from family and coworkers. I now understand more clearly how much a supportive work environment is a necessity for all employees of the Forest Service.


Why do you think your field is important?

I have two professional fields: one as a biologist, and the other as an administrative professional. They both underlie the foundation of the agency. Natural resource and administrative professionals cooperate to connect people to the outdoors and conserve natural resources for the American people. Employees don’t often realize nor appreciate the necessity of the administrative support system and management staff that operate in parallel with the field specialists.


A picture of Irvin Fernandez rafting with his son Ethan.
Irvin rafting with his son, Ethan, rafting Rogue River, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (Fox-Fernandez family photos.)

What are some of the greatest challenges confronting your field?

Communication can be a great challenge between natural resource and administrative professionals. Natural resource personnel often focus on their training specialties and collaborate little with office mates of other disciplines. When employees take care of each other, we can better connect communities to value the outdoors. The future of public lands requires growing communities and future stewards in conservation and public land management.


How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?

I love our motto: Caring for the Land and Serving People. It’s also good to confuse it with caring for the people that serve the land. I didn’t appreciate the nation’s first forester and father of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, until I read recently the Big Burn, by Timothy Egan. Pinchot’s mission statement “The greatest good of the greatest number of in the long run” continues to ring true for the long view for conservation of your public lands. When you love what you do, it’s pretty easy to work for nature.


Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?

Yes. I would say to them it is really an honor and a pleasure to work in the great outdoors with the nation’s natural treasures! My greatest joy has been working in the great outdoors protecting clean water and sharing nature’s wonders with the public.