Four-wheel drive trucks taking a back seat with forest rangers
EAGLE COUNTY – So much of a forest ranger’s job depends on big engines and lots of fuel. But not every job requires a burly truck with four-wheel drive.The Forest Service is starting to rethink how it gets from one place to another. The truck culture associated with the rugged, outdoors job is changing, and rangers in the White River National Forest that surrounds Eagle County are finding ways around using the gas-guzzling trucks that are great for hauling but horrible for commuting.”The miles traveled by Forest Service vehicles in the U.S. are in the millions, and if you have this culture change from the big truck that gets 12 miles a gallon to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, that can make a huge difference,” said Jim Stark, winter sports administrator for the White River National Forest and member of a regional team working on energy conservation.The culture change is a slow but conscious one. Stark said it requires getting workers to carpool and ask themselves what type of vehicle they really need for a day. Eventually, though, there will be a larger shift to more environmentally friendly cars. As vehicles in the Forest Service fleet need replacing, hybrids and alternative-fuel cars will be considered options. The Rocky Mountain Forest Region ordered 48 alternative-fuel cars for 2006, adding to at least 25 already in the fleet.Brian Lloyd, acting district ranger, said stations in Minturn and Eagle haven’t had the opportunities yet for a big vehicle purchase like that, but he looks forward to the day when he can replace one of their work trucks with a fuel-efficient hybrid. Until then, it’s hard getting around using those big trucks for the roughneck jobs.”The industry was aimed at getting sedans and that sort of car out in the hybrids,” Lloyd said. “We can use those, but if you’re looking for something that can do heavy work, those are harder to find.”His offices concentrate more on better planning, sharing rides and using conference calls when possible to avoid driving.Patterns of behaviorExamining the truck culture is just part of a wide-reaching effort by the Forest Service to better practice the concepts they’ve always preached. Certainly a big part of the effort is in transportation, but there’s a lot of work to be done with increasing energy efficiency in the office.Alicen Kandt, an engineer with the National Renewable Energy Lab, said a large part of the energy problem stems from the fact that many groups within the Forest Service never see their energy bills.”The headquarters pay the bills, and sometimes the regional buildings don’t know how much their specific buildings are using,” Kandt said. “It’s really important to get an overview of where their energy use currently is.”Kandt is working on an audit that will show exactly how much individual stations are using, but the Forest Service already believes it’s using more energy than it should. It plans on reducing energy consumption 20 percent by 2015 and greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent by 2010.
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