A Day in the Life of a Forest Steward | SummitDaily.com

A Day in the Life of a Forest Steward

special to the daily
Special to the DailyRhonda Pederson, FDRD Forest Stewards program outreach educator, provides a trail guide to two guests from Tulsa, Okla. The ranger station provides a plethora of forest information, from trail maps to volunteer opportunities and is a must-stop for both locals and guest of Summit County for all their forest questions.

I am a member of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, and I participate in FDRD’s Forest Stewards program. I volunteer as an outreach educator, which includes work at the Dillon Ranger Station’s information desk.

Last summer, I moved to Silverthorne from Oklahoma after eight years as a part-time resident. After spending “spring” wondering if winter would ever end, I saw an opportunity in the newspaper to volunteer with FDRD.

The Dillon Ranger District is part of the White River National Forest, and within the district are two wilderness areas ” the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness and Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness.

I liked the idea of donating time and effort to the Forest Service. In Colorado, we have public lands to enjoy that much of the rest of the United States and the world don’t.

Knowing that funding was limited, I thought volunteering at the ranger station’s front desk would be helpful. Hey, I can stand behind a counter and hand out pamphlets! It turned out to be much more rewarding and interesting than I ever imagined.

In early season training sessions for the Forest Stewards program, I learned about noxious weeds, GPS use, first aid, CPR, and wilderness-area regulations (nothing mechanized or motorized in wilderness areas: no bikes, no vehicles of any kind ” even our trail crews use cross-cut saws).

Next, Jim Cox, a front-desk volunteer, trained me at the ranger station. During the summer, the station may have as many as 300 visitors and answer more than 200 phone calls each day.

The most important information for many is which campsites are open, where they are located, and how reservations are made. Another common inquiry is about the many Forest Service trails throughout Summit County “their location, difficulty level and what uses are permitted on them.

I conquered the cash register, firewood permits, recreation-opportunity guides (trail guides available for every Forest Service), Christmas-tree permits, OHV permits plus national park, senior and Green Mountain Reservoir passes. In addition, I became familiar with the many books and maps we sell and the free information we have on subjects as diverse as wildlife and pine beetles.

On one of my first days at the station, a group of preschool students visited and were given a presentation on forest and fire safety by Smokey Bear. Another day, 14 children came with their grandmothers and looked at our displays. Each child received a “goodie” bag and information about fire and camping safety.

My greatest challenge is learning the vast information people expect Forest Service personnel to know. My first phone call asked: “Can I use a belly boat on Dillon Reservoir, and, if so, should it be inspected for zebra mussels?”

Other questions included: “Please tell me why all the trees are dead;” “Where can I pan for gold and what are the rules about it?” “Where can I go with my ATV or to hike with my kids?” “Do I need a permit to harvest aspen whips?” (Aspen whips??!!)

This year we’ve had to deal with most campgrounds around the Dillon Reservoir being closed for logging. I never realized there was so much to learn about Summit County.

One reason I enjoy my volunteer time so much is because of the great people who work at the ranger station. They are knowledgeable, capable and fun. We have a wildlife biologist, recreation specialist, law-enforcement officer, timber crews, fire crews and a snow ranger, to name a few.

My best resource and most enjoyable associate is Kate Hanson, a visitor-information specialist. She knows everything! And she has been very patient while I ask questions.

Another reason I so enjoy my Wednesdays is what I am learning. The ranger station provides not only information for things like camping and hiking, but is also a prime contact for many Summit County visitors. Through us, they may have their first encounter with our local National Forest lands and wilderness areas. I constantly learn new things to share with them so their experience here is more pleasant and enjoyable.

Please consider joining FDRD’s team of outreach educators and help us continue to enhance the experience our guests. My title may be educator, but I am learning just as much. This is fun!

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