It’s hard to believe it is February 2020 already! Where does the time go? Here are some recent happenings and some “new year’s resolutions” for the Sisters Ranger District.
First, we are still accepting comments on a project proposal to clear 13 miles of existing powerline corridors in the Indian Ford and Camp Sherman vicinity to improve access and powerline safety, including wildfire risk reduction. Speaking of wildfire, the 2019 revision of the Greater Sisters Country Community Wildfire Protection Plan was recently approved by our local elected officials. The plan is available on the Project Wildfire website and represents a tremendous effort to keep us all fire-safe and resilient in Sisters Country.
We are getting close to requesting stewardship contract proposals to manage about 250 acres near Suttle Lake for forest health and public safety. We expect that tree removal work will begin this year along road systems, in Suttle Lake campgrounds, Camp Tamarack, and the United Methodist Camp. We will provide more information to the public as we get closer to project kickoff.
In the vein of providing public information, we will be hosting another Sisters Ranger District open house this year. Please mark your calendars for the evening of April 15 at the Sisters-Camp Sherman fire hall. Aside from tax day and the spring turkey hunting opener, this open house is another reason to look forward to April 15. We will follow a similar format as last year: describe recent projects, have open dialogue and answer questions with the public, and have smaller breakout sessions with staff. Our new forest supervisor, Holly Jewkes, is expected to attend so it will be a great opportunity to learn about what is going on in your Deschutes National Forest and how you can get involved.
Other projects we are working on this year include the sale of the northern portion of the ranger station administrative site. We are in contract with a local buyer and expect to close this summer. The proceeds from this land sale combined with pending federal grant applications could pave the way for new ranger station construction commencing as early as 2021 or 2022. We are also planning on relocating the Peterson Ridge trailhead this summer and adding several small connector trails to the PRT to provide some additional non-motorized trail opportunities. And speaking of recreation, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention winter recreation. We understand there have been some challenging days this winter season accessing the Three Creek sno-parks and are working on proactive solutions with our contractor and other community partners including ODOT and the City of Sisters. Also, if you are a winter rec aficionado consider attending the 15th annual winter backcountry film festival at Sisters Movie House on the evening of February 9, hosted by our local partner Discover Your Forest.
We have recently lost some awesome employees and are working hard to refill those positions. District wildlife biologist Kris Hennings and recreation staff Amy Racki both left for promotions. And law-enforcement officer Fred Perl has retired after an incredible career of federal service including 16 years spent on the Sisters Ranger District. These are all big boots to fill. And sadly, we lost a dear friend and recently retired coworker Robin Gyorgyfalvy last month to chronic illness. Robin was a landscape architect instrumental in the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway, Sisters roundabout art, and the design of Whychus Overlook. She was an amazing human being who received a 2015 Federal Asian Pacific American Council Civilian Award in recognition of her accomplishments in promoting diversity and inclusiveness. A hui hou, Robin.
Looping back to the rhetorical question I posed at the beginning of this column, the Forest Service celebrated its 115th birthday on February 1. Our country has seen massive change over this time and we expect much more in the next century. Regardless of how national demands evolve, our agency core values of service, conservation, interdependence, diversity, and safety will help us meet our mission to provide excellent public service to you, the American people. Here’s to a productive 2020!