Our network

Ouachita National Forest employees receive regional awards | Environment

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Ouachita National Forest employees receive regional awards
Ouachita National Forest employees receive regional awards

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (USDA) - Ouachita National Forest personnel were honored in 5 of 15 award categories during the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region awards in Atlanta, Ga., Nov. 7.

The Poteau-Cold Springs Ranger District received the prestigious 2013 "Ranger District of the Year" award for its leadership in natural resource management while maintaining quality of work and safety to the public and its employees.

The district employees were recognized for protecting and enhancing habitat for endangered species, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and American Burying Beetle; providing 24 million board feet of timber to local timber industries; burning more than 30,000 acres for fire hazard reduction, reforestation, and wildlife habitat improvement; helping to restore the desired conditions of the pine-bluestem woodland through a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project; and finding ways to complete jobs despite a reduced budget and workforce by working together more efficiently.

Jeff Olson, Forest Soil Scientist, received the Natural Resources Leadership Award.

Olson was recognized for his strong leadership and commitment to the planning and design of critical natural resource protection measures and protocols for the Wolf Pen Gap Trail Complex. His work on the Wolf Pen Gap Wet Weather Management Plan will ultimately serve as a foundation for other trail systems on the Ouachita National Forest, and could possibly be adapted for other trail systems elsewhere managed by the Forest Service or other agencies.

Robert Bastarache, Wildlife Biologist at the Oklahoma Ranger District, received the Restored and Resilient Landscapes Award.

For the past 15 years, Bastarache has been working to restore the hydrology and bottomland hardwood ecosystem of the 5, 900 acre Red Slough area in Oklahoma, providing the highest level of plant and animal diversity. The Red Slough area is now widely known for bird watching opportunities.

Debbie Mitchell, Fleet Manager, was among others who received the "Creating A Safety Learning Culture Award," for their work as part of the Regional Risk Assessment Cadre.

Mitchell was a member of the regional risk assessment cadre brought together to help research why John Deere bulldozers were becoming unresponsive during the course of wildfire suppression operations. The mechanical problem increased the risks and dangers to Forest Service employees at a time when mechanical reliability is needed most.

The Cadre conducted a number of tasks such as performing a thorough risk assessment, engaging partners in an interagency safety issue, developing an analytical approach, and working with other experts to find solutions to the problem. The result of their work will help protect bulldozer operators and firefighters during wildfire operations into the future.

Mitzi Cole, a Fisheries Biologist, and other members of her group received the "Partners/Community Engagement" award for their work with the Georgia Back-the-Brookie Partnership which worked to restore native brook trout on the Chattahoochee National Forest in Suches, Ga.

The project has included the stocking of fish, monitoring, and other practices to benefit native brook trout and has been recognized in Field and Stream magazine and by Trout Unlimited nationally.

(SourcE: USDA)