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By Ian Reid 

Please excuse the messes


Last updated 2/27/2024 at 10:38am

People often ask me if winter is a slow season for the Forest Service. The days are often less urgent, without wildfire response, but there is always much to be done. Winter is when the bulk of our planning work typically gets accomplished: hiring employees, writing reports, preparing contracts and agreements, executing budgets, and developing and authorizing projects to implement in late season. This year has been different because the relatively mild winter has allowed some important project implementation to occur.

One of the most visible projects is the new ranger-station construction, being implemented by our skilled general contractor, DSL Builders LLC. Early winter saw the well-coordinated demolition of two buildings that needed to be removed to make room for the new station. Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District used these demolitions as valuable training opportunities for structural firefighters. Since the old buildings were removed, the contractor has been diligently preparing the site for utilities and concrete pouring. We expect walls and trusses to start going up this spring, with a move-in date scheduled for January 2025. We plan on keeping the current station open while construction is ongoing but realize there may be some disruptions in visitor parking or other services, as well as noise and potential dust.

Coinciding with pouring the foundation for the new ranger station, we will be hosting our annual open house on the evening of April 9. The open house is a popular event where the community can learn about upcoming projects, including prescribed fires, ask questions and give feedback to district employees, and visit with their public servants. New this year, we plan on hosting the event on the ranger station campus and offering an optional walking tour to see the final site plan, which includes a new warehouse and fire engine bay, new ranger station, employee housing, and increased visitor parking—a benefit to the Sisters downtown core. If you are interested in attending the open house or the campus tour on the evening of April 9 please contact 541-549-7700 or [email protected].

Another common question I have been asked lately is, “what is going on with the green tractors in the woods?” The low snow year, combined with funds from the Forest Service Wildfire Crisis Strategy, has allowed us to accomplish some important brush mowing along private-land boundaries and strategic road systems using both contractors and Forest Service employees. Mowing brush is a delicate balancing act between conserving wildlife habitat — antelope bitterbrush is an important food for wintering mule deer — and reducing wildfire risk. Our local brush species burn readily, and bitterbrush with sustained wind will produce flame lengths greater than the four-feet safe for firefighters to engage. Mowing has some drawbacks compared to prescribed fire, but it does allow brush species to recover by sprouting within one year after mowing and is an important management tool when ecological or social conditions warrant.

Along some forest roads, we have recently used a track-mounted excavator to reduce brush to improve responder access, enhance public safety by extending sight distances, and promote fuels modification in case of a fire. We know one of the drawbacks from mowing and masticating can be visual impacts and we have heard from the public about how rough some of this work looks. Like disruptions from the construction at the ranger station campus, we expect these “messes” to be transitory and for visuals to improve within the next year or so. If you are interested in learning more about the complex science behind bitterbrush management, check out Busse and Riegel (2009) in the Journal of Forestry Ecology and Management (free online).

In preparing for the coming field and fire seasons, we have hired many new permanent employees since last fall: Noel Goodpasture, Patrick Brewer, Aaron Funk, Alex Reasoner, Kendra Lesmeister, Sara Burns, Olga von Ehrenstein, Hayley Johnston, Wesley Johnson, Ethan Niyangoda, Isaiah Salsky, Leah Beebe, Kimberly Fiscus, Makenzie Fong, Molly Johnson, Kaito Lopez, Ellie McNairy, Jodi Miller, Shane Palmer, Dan Peterson, Savannah Remmich, Anna Saphier, and Melinda Walker.

Finally, if you are between 16-18 and looking for outside work this summer with many benefits, please consider applying for the Sisters Youth Conservation Corps crew. We are also looking for older crew leaders and providing housing for rent in Sisters. More information is available at

We hope to see you at the April open house!


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