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By Ian Reid
Sisters District Ranger 

Cone pickers and cone lickers


Last updated 4/5/2022 at Noon

Spring in Sisters means the return of the cone pickers and cone lickers. The former are semi-nomadic forest workers harvesting dry pinecones by hand for decorative markets. The latter are the local vernacular for tourists stopping in town to shop, or possibly grab an ice cream cone. Both symbolize an economy tied to recreation, tourism, and natural resources; a socioeconomic web vulnerable to unravelling by wildfire.

The Forest Service has recently released its 10-year strategy to squarely address the wildfire crisis in the places where it poses the most immediate threats to communities like Sisters. The intent is to treat an additional 20 million acres of national forests and 30 million acres of tribal, state, other federal, and private lands over the next decade. It is currently unknown how this strategy will affect Sisters Country directly, but due to the high risk of the Sisters fire-shed (currently ranked No. 1 in Oregon), it is likely to be worthy of additional energy and resources.

The Forest Service 10-year wildfire crisis strategy builds on the broader national cohesive wildland fire management strategy. The vision of the cohesive strategy is to safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed; use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources; and as a nation, to live with wildland fire. The cohesive strategy sets three goals: 1. Resilient Landscapes, 2. Fire Adapted Communities, and

3. Safe and Effective Wildfire Response.

One project we have been working on that addresses wildfire risk reduction, safe and effective response, and resilient landscapes is the Green Ridge landscape restoration project that proposes about 20,000 acres of thinning and prescribed burning between Sisters and Camp Sherman. Before the morels pop their honeycombed heads out of the duff and recent burns around Sisters this spring, we plan on releasing the final environmental assessment and draft decision notice.

If you are free on the evening of Monday, April 11, we invite you to join us at 5:30 at the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Hall on Elm Street.

We will be discussing Green Ridge and our other vegetation projects, upcoming prescribed burns, changes to the Central Cascades wilderness permit system, updates on new ranger station construction, firewood program changes, aquatic and wildlife restoration, recreation projects, and a fire season outlook.

Doors open at 5:15 p.m.

and there will be time for questions and small-group breakouts.

If you can’t make the open house but are interested in receiving updates about our projects, sign up at

A substantial amount of permanent staff turnover has occurred since the fall 2021 Ranger’s Corner. We have hired Sarah Cudworth as a special uses assistant, Cheryl Miller as an administrative support assistant, Andy Ornberg as silviculturist, and Kellen Bacheller as our lead presale forester. Kevin Robinson is our new fire prevention technician and Jeremy Gottfried our new fuels technician, bringing our total to three fuels techs on the district. Other permanent fire positions are engine captain James Fields; and Neal Fair, Richard Bartkowiak, Mathew Roderick, and Sean Dahlberg as permanent engine module positions.

Sadly, we bid farewell to many longtime Sisters Ranger District employees. Fire prevention technician Teri Cairns has taken a position in Bend with fleet. Hydrologist Cari Press is leaving the district after almost 20 years of service, including a tremendous effort in restoring the Whychus Creek watershed. Fire management officer James Osborne accepted a promotion with Prineville BLM and we will miss his steady leadership that has served Sisters Country well through the Milli Fire, Green Ridge fires, and other complex incidents.

Finally, we celebrate Bob Hennings on his well-deserved retirement after 42 years working in developed recreation on the district. Bob started working in Sisters when Jimmy Carter was President, and for over four decades has kept our campgrounds and developed rec sites clean and safe in addition to mentoring hundreds of students in Youth Conservation Corps programs. Happy trails and tight lines in retirement, Bob!

Again, if you are free next Monday evening, consider dropping by our open house at the fire hall on Elm Street. It’s been three years since we have hosted an in-person meeting and we would love to see you there. Take care and be well.


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