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September 17th, 2020 at 12:00PM

As a child Micah Kiesow’s family traveled most winters out West and every summer to the north woods of Wisconsin and like so many USDA Forest Service employees, these family trips were the start of his love for the outdoors. Micah grew up in the small town of Horicon, Wisconsin where the school’s mascot was a marshman--literally described in the dictionary as someone who lives in the marshes. This all makes sense with the town’s main claim to fame being the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States.

Micah Kiesow on the job.
Micah Kiesow on the job.

Inspired by his parents growing up, Micah Kiesow’s was especially impressed with the work ethic of putting your full effort into a job no matter how big or small that both his mom and dad instilled in him.

Now a soil scientist with the USDA Forest Service, Micah started with the agency as a summer intern on the Gila National Forest mapping soils and vegetation across the forest. He never imagined having a job where he could be out in the field 4 days a week, camping, digging soil pits, and describing vegetation. He was hooked after that summer and not long after he graduated from college a soil scientist position was posted for that exact job on the mapping crew he had interned with. He was hired by the Forest Service and has continued to work as a soil scientist ever since.

What do you do as a soil scientist and what is your favorite part of your job?

For starters the work I do goes far beyond the soil. I support the watershed program for the Kaibab National Forest and serve as the forest Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) coordinator. My favorite part of the job is the diversity of projects I get to be a part of and the talented forest specialists I work with. This gives me a better appreciation and understanding for the work others do and, more importantly, insight into how the watershed program can better engage different disciplines. 

Micah Kiesow with his wife and children.
Micah Kiesow with his wife and children. Photo: Kiesow family photos.

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

I have two young children, which has really changed the meaning of fun for me! We spend a lot of time hiking, camping and traveling across the West.

What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

There have been so many achievements that I am proud of, but what comes to my mind are my two children, Kira and Novin. It really takes some teamwork, and I wouldn’t want to be doing that with anyone other than my wife, Tonya. As a family we take our hiking seriously. The kids have been to some pretty cool places while we, the parents, do the work! Our most recent hike, which really pushed my limits, was Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s highest point. It wouldn’t have been so bad but hauling up a 3-year-old on my back made it challenging. The reward came once the entire family reached the summit and got to enjoy the awe-inspiring view together.

Becoming a regional resource for the BAER program is something I am very proud of. Being an up-and-coming BAER team lead has its challenges but serving in this role on high-profile incidents gives me a great sense of accomplishment. There are so many moving parts, tight timelines and so many people with whom you engage. I come away with a great sense of accomplishment and am always learning from each assignment.  

Micah Kiesow working with colleagues on a water restoration project.
Micah Kiesow working with colleagues on a water restoration project. Photo USDA Forest Service.

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

I recently worked on a project on the Kaibab National Forest. The project’s focus was on protecting and restoring natural waters across the North Kaibab Ranger District. The great thing was that we teamed up with Tribal work crews that help complete this work. The watershed protection work is great in and of itself, but once you have chance to work with these Tribal crews it gives you a new sense of what the forest and, more specifically, these waters mean to people who are connected to this land through their ancestry. The stories these folks have shared and being able to work alongside them to complete meaningful work really gives me a deep appreciation for our public lands.

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

I want the public to not only see our work but understand what and why we are doing that work. I think it is our story to tell, but the public’s story to embrace. I want the public to feel ownership and pride in the projects that we do.

What are your future career goals?

The work I do on the Kaibab National Forest is setting me up for program management. In the near term, I hope to move into the role of a forest watershed program manager.

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

Get out and volunteer! Get a summer job and really explore the multitude of options for Forest Service opportunities! The Forest Service has such a dedicated and diverse workforce. You may not know what inspires you until you do the work.