Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Jose Sanchez

Office of Communication
September 21st, 2018 at 3:45PM

A photo of Jose Sanchez with Woodsy Owl
Jose Sanchez with the USDA Forest Service’s own Woodsy Owl who (no pun intended) says “Lend a hand. Care for the land.” (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Although he grew up in the shadow of the massive Cleveland National Forest near Orange County, California Jose Sanchez never had the opportunity to experience a wilderness forest or enjoy much outdoor recreation for that matter. Jose grew up a block from Disneyland and, like most kids in Southern California, spent a lot of time at the beach. In fact as a child he didn’t know much about the USDA Forest Service other than hearing about Smokey Bear and his fire prevention messages.

However, in graduate school, this all changed after he worked two internships with the research branch of the Forest Service, the Northern Research Station out of St. Paul, Minnesota, and then the Pacific Southwest Research Station in Riverside, California. It was through those two internships that he started learning all about national forests, the career opportunities within the Forest Service, and the role science played in managing natural resources.

Now excited about the prospect of working in the outdoors, he applied for and was accepted into the Forest Service’s Scientific Recruitment Initiative, a program to encourage college students to pursue science careers with the agency. Upon completing his doctorate degree 2014, Jose became a scientist for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station.

What do you do in the Forest Service and what is your favorite part of your job?

I work for the Pacific Southwest Research Station as a Forest Service Research Economist. My job is to quantify the benefits, such as recreation opportunities, water, and carbon sequestration that individuals and communities derive from national forest lands.

In particular, my focus is on how recreation opportunities are impacted by wildfires, drought, and other forest disturbances. My other research interest is improving national forest access to disadvantage communities. My favorite part of job is the constant learning and having the opportunity to share my research finding with Forest Service managers, colleagues, domestic and international stakeholders.

Who or what inspired you growing up?

My parents are my biggest inspiration. They immigrated to the US from Mexico for better opportunities. Seeing how my parents worked hard and never complained about the everyday struggles motivated me to never give up on my goals.

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

I enjoy playing soccer, spending time at the baseball field with son, and at the volleyball court and dance competitions with my daughter. When not busy with sporting activities, we enjoy relaxing at the beach and spending time hiking.

A photo of Jose’s wife, Cecilia (middle) and son, Julio (right), and his daughter, Jacqueline (left) enjoying the great outdoors.
Jose’s wife, Cecilia (middle) and son, Julio (right), and his daughter, Jacqueline (left) enjoying the great outdoors. (Sanchez family photo.)

What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

My greatest personal achievement is having an understanding and loving family; my wife Cecilia, daughter Jacqueline and my son Julio. Also, excited to welcome a new addition to the family by mid-October!

I was the first person in my family to attend and graduate from a university. My professional achievement is receiving my Ph.D. from University of California, Riverside and becoming a Forest Service scientist.

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

My education has opened up the doors to the opportunities obtained with the Forest Service. As a graduate student, I was selected as a HACU intern to work with the Forest Service Research & Development. It was there that I learned about the Forest Service and all the excellent research work being conduct by Forest Service scientists to help inform Forest Service and other land managers. In addition, being a SCEP student, which is now the Pathway Program, helped me obtained work experience while working towards my Ph.D.

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

Currently, I am working with homeowners in California and Colorado to determine their willingness to pay for the implementation of wildfire mitigation programs that might help reduce the risk of their homes or property being destroyed by a wildfire. This research could provide information that allows fire managers to develop fuels reduction treatment programs acceptable to residential communities.

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

Forest landscapes are changing due to drought, increase frequency and severity of wildfires, and other disturbances. I would like the public to perceive our work as innovative, relevant, and necessary to help preserve national forests and natural resources for present and future generations.

What are your future career goals?

My future career goals is to continue being a Forest Service scientist that the agency can depend for expertise in the areas of valuation of ecosystem services and fire economics.

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

My advice to anyone wanting to work for the Forest Service is to take advantage of internships opportunities the agency provides. Take risks and don’t be afraid to work in remote locations. You never know, you might fall in love with nature and its surroundings.

We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from mid-September to mid-October. What does your heritage mean to you and your co-workers?

We really embrace family in my heritage. Everything we do, we want to do as a family — and usually involves lots of food. We like spending time together, especially on a national forest. So if we have a family gathering, it’s going to be like a party with good food, music and dancing. And we try to help each other as much as possible because of those familial bonds. I carry that attitude with me in my job.

A photo of Jose Sanchez
Jose Sanchez (Sanchez family photos)
A photo of Jose Sanchez handing out materials to young employee
Jose Sanchez hands out materials to young employee prospects at an outdoors event. (U.S. Forest Service photo)