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Pacific NW Forest Service Volunteers of the Year include several special Central Oregonians

The Forest Service regional forester has recognized several Central Oregonians among Volunteers of the Year, including Stacey Cochran, Rick Hurd, Gary Meyer and David Alward
U.S. Forest Service
The Forest Service regional forester has recognized several Central Oregonians among Volunteers of the Year, including Stacey Cochran, Rick Hurd, Gary Meyer and David Alward

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) – The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest regional forester announced the region’s 2021 Volunteer and Service Awards recipients last week. In all, seven individuals and four organizations are being recognized for their outstanding contributions through volunteer service, said Glenn Casamassa, regional forester for the Pacific Northwest. 

“During National Volunteer Week. I want to extend my thanks to all of our U.S. Forest Service volunteers. I also want to give special recognition to our Regional Volunteers of the Year who were selected from across the Region for their dedication, commitment and contributions. Volunteers are a crucial source of support to National Forests. Their time, skills, and the care they bring to the work of caring for America’s Forests and Grasslands is inspiring, and their efforts have a direct impact on our ability to deliver services to the public,” Casamassa said. 

In the Pacific Northwest, volunteers donate hundreds of thousands of hours annually to help repair and maintain trails, clean up trash cleanups, provide educational and interpretive programs, host campgrounds, respond to search and rescue calls, participate in citizen science, and improve public lands.

Volunteers work directly with the federal agency, and with non-profit organizations that organize projects in direct support of the agency’s work. In 2021, more than 10,700 volunteers and service participants contributed more than 444,000 hours of service, valued at more than $12.6 million in Washington and Oregon, alone. Collectively, this represented more than 12% of the total volunteer service hours recorded by the Forest Service during the 2021 fiscal year.

Despite the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forest Service engaged more than 66,000 volunteer and service participants across the nation during the 2021 fiscal year. Together, volunteers contributed more than 3.5 million hours of service, valued at more than $103 million - equivalent to the work of 2,017 full-time employees – to improve visitors’ experiences, steward public lands, and support the Forest Service’s overall conservation of forests and grasslands. 

The following individuals and organizations recipients were recognized for their contributions to the public through volunteer service in support of the U.S. Forest Service and national forests and grasslands in the Pacific Northwest during the 2021 fiscal year.

For Enduring Service

Andy Goodwin was recognized for his volunteer work in support of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington. Goodwin has volunteered with the Mount St. Helens Institute’s Mountain Stewards program since 2016. During this time, he has amassed over 2,500 volunteer hours. In 2021, he climbed Mount St. Helens 43 times, and completed a “roving report” for each climb. 

David Alward is a long-time volunteer on the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests, both in Oregon. He has contributed his time and effort as both an individual and a member of multiple clubs and organizations since 2014. In that time, he has contributed more than 31,300 hours of service to the agency. David has made it his personal mission to ensure that all wilderness trailhead, trail junction, and boundary signs for the Three Sisters Wilderness Areas (including Mt. Jefferson, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Washington) are in place and maintained in good condition, and he’s a leader in the training and implementation of wilderness trail clearing for the Three Sisters area.  

Rick Hurd’s extraordinary knowledge and engaging manner has enhanced visitors’ experiences while helping them build strong connections to nature and Oregon’s unique volcanic topography while visiting the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, located on the Deschutes National Forest. Since 2015, Rick has provided his expertise to support policy changes that preserve the local wilderness areas, promotes sustainable use, and provides outstanding customer service.

Bob Johnson has served as a volunteer on the Snoqualmie Ranger District with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington for more than 15 years, and has contributed an average of 650 hours per year during each of the past five years. Johnson serves with the summer wilderness ranger and winter snowshoeing programs - leading education programs, training, and field days for volunteers, and generally being the “go-to” person for anything the volunteer program needs.

Steven Barham has overseen a complete redesign of the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center on the Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon during the COVID-19 pandemic. Barham’s contributions included building a gift shop display, constructing a new sign-in podium, creating 17 new display pieces, and crafting eight router-carved wood signs for the Cape Perpetua National Scenic Area. Barham was also recognized for providing excellent customer service while volunteering, even while the visitor center was closed, by helping visitors find trailheads and special features along the coastline, and sharing safety messages. 

The Back Country Horsemen of America - Grays Harbor Chapter formed in 1999, and has 123 active members in Elma, Washington, the southern gateway to the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park. The chapter adopted and has continuously maintaining the 20-mile West Fork Humptulips Trail system since 2007. Chapter members also worked with regional Forest Service staff to develop a new safety program, which is now being implemented nationally. 

For Leadership

Stacey Cochran manages the Deschutes National Forest’s and the Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland's combined volunteer workforce and career pathways program of more than 3,000 participants to support the agency’s mission and capacity to do work on these Oregon landscapes. Cochran is credited with increasing the number of internships on the Ochoco and Deschutes by 166 percent, and for facilitating career development workshops and partnerships that result in four to six interns becoming Forest Service employees, annually. 

The White River Forest Protection Association (WRFPA) was officially formed as a 501c.3 organization in 2018, and has been instrumental to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest’s efforts to maintain a clean and healthy front country and landscape on the Snoqualmie Ranger District. Averaging a contribution of more than 1,000 volunteer hours annually since 2018, WRFPA members provided 1,601 hours of volunteer labor to the Snoqualmie Ranger District’s Highway 410 Corridor in fiscal year 2021, including organized garbage cleanups, sign installations and maintenance. Volunteers have also supported the forest’s Enumclaw, Washington field office, providing a positive, responsive volunteer presence to assist visitors and Forest Service staff.

For Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships

The Gifford Pinchot Trash Force began as informal groups of volunteers going out to do trash cleanup on and around the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and grew into an established organization that has entered into a volunteer service agreement with the Forest Service. In 2021, the group conducted more than 20 citizen cleanup patrols on and around the forest’s Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, partnered with a military veterans organization to further increase their capacity, and worked with a local sanitation services company to increase recycling of items and materials found on the forest during cleanup events. 

Gary Meyer volunteers with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) on the Deschutes National Forest, where he’s been instrumental in expanding the alliance’s effectiveness as a volunteer organization. He has built, maintained, and developed plans for fat-bike trails, served as a sawyer, and has contributed to trail planning and management efforts in ways that will continue to benefit the forest for years. In addition to being a great mentor and trainer to volunteers and staff, Meyer is credited with performing all the mapping and much of the route planning, initial flagging, and created GPS coordinates for more than fifty proposed trail projects.

For Cultural Diversity

The Children’s Forest Vamanos Outside Program hosted culturally-specific programming and events such as water-rafting, camping, and early childhood outdoor literacy programs to help connect LatinX youth and communities with the outdoors on the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests. The organization’s programming reached more than 244 individuals during the past fiscal year. Hispanic and LatinX people made up 17.1 percent of the U.S. population in 2010, but comprised only 5.7 percent of forest visitors, according to the National Forest Visitor Use Monitoring program’s survey that same year.

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