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HikerJohn
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PostMon Dec 17, 2018 10:27 pm 
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Hey guys,

I've been asked to spread the word-- the FY2019 budget has hit the US Forest Service pretty hard, and one of the busiest districts in the country (actually 3rd busiest), the Snoqualmie Ranger District, has been hit particularly hard-- like losing 1/3 of their recreation budget.  NW Forest Pass $$$ makes up some of the pain, but not enough (and due to the arcane rules, the districts that bring in the most have to share with districts that don't).   As a result, they are talking about closing trailheads, locking toilets, cutting trail maintenance in half, reducing patrols, and locking road gates.  None of this is good in a district where the number of hikers is increasing each year.

So how can you help?  By volunteering your time with the USFS you 1) can help fill in some of the gaps, and 2) help the USFS get matching funds from grants that can help fill the budget hole (and 3) call your congressman).   Why Volunteer?  because it's fun and rewarding.  I started volunteering a few years back, helping with lookout duty and trail maintenance (beyond the WTA), then this summer became a weekly volunteer.  What do I do?  I help maintain lookout towers like Sun Top, patrol the wilderness trails, putting out campfires left burning and picking up litter, educate children and adults I meet on safe hiking, what the plants and trees they are seeing, and how to "leave no trace"; and do light to moderate trail maintenance. 

You don't have to wait until next summer--there are opportunities to volunteer coming up soon!

Interested in learning more?  check out this flier:
https://app.box.com/s/2sf5fe5weys68gnhqw0kcgku87nm8ihj
or this site:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mbs/workingtogether/volunteering/?cid=fsbdev7_001673

or PM me if you have questions. 
And don't forget to let your congressman (or woman) know!
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RichP
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 8:09 am 
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Thank you for your work, john. I believe you are mentioned in this WTA report.

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report.2018-12-17.4537632050

This sounds like an excellent initiative by the FS.  up.gif

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HikerJohn
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 8:32 am 
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RichP,
Yup!  That was me!

It is an initiative by the USFS, but I hate that they've been forced to do this...it would be better if they had just gotten to accept volunteers instead of these circumstances...
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Kim Brown
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 9:05 am 
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You get to drive TRUCKS????

HikerJon, are you the really tall guy? I mean really tall?

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HikerJohn
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 9:23 am 
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Kim,
Yes, we get checked out to drive the Forest Service rigs (not the really cool ones with sirens and flashing lights), we get trained and carry radios when we're in the backcountry, and yes, we get the cool uniforms!

I'm not the tall guy (any of them) by any stretch of the imagination.  If you are thinking a really tall guy (with a beard) in Enumclaw area, that would be James...
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neek
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 9:52 am 
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John, and all volunteers - thank you so much for your work.  It is these sorts of selfless acts that help maintain my faith in humanity.  (I know it's personally rewarding as well, but still, setting up your life so that you can do this sort of thing says a lot.)

I would like to become involved in volunteer work and plan to stick with it for a long time but am having trouble getting started.  You've presented yet another option I wasn't even aware of.  For someone with zero experience maintaining trails and related work but in good physical condition and self-sufficient in a wilderness setting, do you think the USFS positions are something a person should work up to, e.g. by first gaining skills through WTA, PCTA, Mountains to Sound, or one of the many other orgs out there?  I'm not good at confrontation (telling someone "you can't camp there" would be very difficult for me) and prefer behind-the-scenes work.  I do not like the requirement on the FS application to submit references and agree to a background check, but it's the government so understand why they have to do this.  So, any suggestions from you or anyone which org would be the best fit for me?  I'm asking in public because I think some others here are in a similar situation, and some expert advice might help us get started.  Maybe anything's better than nothing and I should just roll the dice...
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HikerJohn
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 10:20 am 
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neek wrote:
For someone with zero experience maintaining trails and related work but in good physical condition and self-sufficient in a wilderness setting, do you think the USFS positions are something a person should work up to, e.g. by first gaining skills through WTA, PCTA, Mountains to Sound, or one of the many other orgs out there?  I'm not good at confrontation (telling someone "you can't camp there" would be very difficult for me) and prefer behind-the-scenes work.  I do not like the requirement on the FS application to submit references and agree to a background check, but it's the government so understand why they have to do this

Neek, while I would certainly encourage you to get involved in WTA, M-to-S, et al, what you mention above is not much of an obstacle.  First, you can even start low-and-slow: volunteer to operate a lookout tower -- it requires only a little knowledge and ability to meet and greet people.  Or join one of us (I really prefer to work with a partner) on a trail patrol and go for a hike with a purpose.  On most of my patrols I walk a lot, stop and talk to folks (mostly just greetings, sometimes answering questions), and pick up the occasional candy bar wrapper.  Most times I carry a shovel and clean up fire pits made in wrong places (e.g. on the roots of a huge cedar tree) or do some light "trail fixing" or using my loppers, clean up the trails a bit.  Nothing huge and nothing requiring a lot of training.  I NEVER confront folks about where they camp, but I will offer friendly advice (e.g. "you really should put the fire out-- there's a fire ban on and it will cost you $500 fine when the Law Enforcement ranger arrives" (standing there with a radio)".   Want to try it out?  Volunteer to come out for a day trip with one of the volunteers and we'll let you experience it in person!
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neek
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 11:16 am 
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Thanks for the encouraging response...sending pm
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treeswarper
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 12:29 pm 
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Do you still get a stipend to cover expenses?  I can remember it once being about $25 a day and volunteers actually got a check for that.

Kim, volunteers usually get the crappy rigs.

I would like to do a lookout again, but I am not sociable and would want to be on one with a trap door I could keep closed, with a sign that said, The Wizard Is Not In.  That's just me.  I could torture the ears of the locked out visitors with my fiddle music.  Where do I sign up? biggrin.gif

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HikerJohn
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 1:12 pm 
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treeswarper wrote:
Do you still get a stipend to cover expenses?  I can remember it once being about $25 a day and volunteers actually got a check for that.

Kim, volunteers usually get the crappy rigs.

Sorry, Tree, but no stipend... but you can write off any miles you drive on your vehicle on your taxes...

We actually are using pretty nice trucks-- the one I"m driving is a two year old Dodge 2500  4x4..


treeswarper wrote:
Where do I sign up? biggrin.gif

Go to the link and email Marta, or PM me and we can meet up at the Ranger Station to chat..
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MikeW
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 1:47 pm 
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Do you happen to know what the time commitment requirements are? I volunteer in the winters for the Mount Tahoma Trails Association and the idea of complimenting this with being a USFS volunteer the rest of the year sounds like a nice idea, but wondering about time commitment. I'll also follow up with the volunteer coordinator, but thought I'd ask since that might be good information for others to know, as well.
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HikerJohn
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 2:01 pm 
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I've been doing 1-2 days a week for trail days -- usually I stop by the Ranger station around 7:30, pick up a radio, and hit the trail by 8:30... back to the barn by 4-5 pm.  Can do an overnight if you want (I haven't yet)...

Lookout duty depends-- mostly it's 48 hours at Sun Top, Kelly Butte (or Granite)--can be shorter or longer, depending on your preference.  Sun Top is a drive up, but has a LOT of visitors... Kelly Butte and Granite are quieter, less visitors, mostly sitting in the shade, reading a book (or doing some painting on the lookout), greeting the occasional visitor, and enjoying the view!

It's as hard or easy as you want to make it--- I've been overachieving recently by helping refurbish and move wilderness toilets (dig a deep hole, move the toilet to it) and some really long hikes, but that's me!
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treeswarper
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 2:57 pm 
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HikerJohn wrote:
the one I"m driving is a two year old Dodge 2500  4x4..

Yup, a crappy Dodge.  I have been beat to death by Dodges.  Fords are better and the Chevys are the easiest going on the backroads especially when one has sore ribs.

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HikerJohn
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 4:41 pm 
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Sorry, Tree.... Dodge is all they got (for now... until the next contract).

Of course, I drive a Jeep Liberty (albeit, a diesel) for my other ride and I love it!
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kiliki
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PostTue Dec 18, 2018 5:22 pm 
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Thanks for your work, HikerJohn. It's sad news about the budget given that our population is exploding and there is such demand for recreation in the MBSNF. I think we should all be writing our elected representatives about this. I suspect they really hear it when it comes to national parks but for forests, not so much.

I wish there'd be an additional levy on the MBSNF, or at least some parts (I-90) the way there is at, say, the Maroon Bells in the White River NF in CO. And the idea is that the MBSNF would be able to keep the money.
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