JOHN DAY – The Malheur National Forest has hired about 40 new permanent employees, bolstering its staff to keep pace with the accelerated pace of restoration work on the forest.
Steve Beverlin, deputy forest supervisor, said last week the local office has been in hiring mode for about eight to 10 months, but nearly all of the new employees are on board now.
About half of the hires are for the interdisciplinary, or ID, teams that analyze resources for the restoration activities that are taking place across the forest.
The forest now has four teams – one for each ranger district, plus one to do range-related environmental review. That’s up from about two and a half teams in recent years.
Other new hires work in a variety of specialties, he said. They are timber markers, sale administrators, fuels specialists and more – field-based jobs needed to implement the forest’s new harvest goals.
The new employees come from across the county, Beverlin said, from Florida, New Jersey, California, Arizona and the Northwest. They share a common drive to be part of the forest-wide restoration under way on the Malheur, he said.
“They really want to be here,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to be part of something special, an opportunity to accomplish something on the ground without getting embroiled in the litigation and stalemates seen in the past.”
Beverlin said the new people are bringing a diversity of ideas to the discussions of the forest staff. They also are getting a look at doing things the Malheur way, with its accelerated restoration goals and the new 10-year stewardship contract under way.
He said the forest staff held sort of a “collaborative 101” training, including community members from the collaborative groups, to acquaint the new employees with the way things are being done here.
He said many of the new workers are younger or mid-career, and could be here for the long haul. Even those who move elsewhere in the agency will take along skills from the forest’s new model for management, he noted.
The hiring brings the Malheur’s staff up to about 200 employees.
In addition to the permanent hires, the Malheur is bringing on 60-80 more seasonal workers than usual. Many of those workers will do data collection focusing on wildlife, archeology, hydrology, stream surveys, and more, to be analyzed in preparation for the growing slate of work over the next eight years.
The goal is to analyze 100,000 to 150,000 acres a year, he said, for landscape-scale restoration work.
The forest staff also are gearing up for the next step up in harvest.
This year’s 45 million board feet is a substantial increase over the past, when the harvest stalled out due to environmental challenges and lack of funding for the work.
With the collaborative approach and drive to repair the forest’s health, the Forest Service has committed to increasing the target to 75 million board feet starting next year. Each year, about 70 percent of the target is expected to go into projects for the 10-year stewardship contract, and 30 percent in conventional timber sales.
The Malheur staff is expected to award the second task order, or project, for the 10-year stewardship contract soon.
Beverlin said the staff appreciates the support of the collaborative groups and the community to do an unprecedented scale of restoration work.
Over the next eight years, the agency will roll out a series of large-scale projects the include prescribed burning, brush piling, timber harvest, riparian restoration and other improvements – all with a goal of making the forest more resilient to fire, insects and disease.
“An opportunity to do this across an entire forest is very rare,” Beverlin said. “The morale is very high because it’s this common vision that we share.”