Bob Steelquist retired from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in May 2014 after a long public-service career that also included the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound Water Quality Authority. He lives on the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State, and recently began his second career as a volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service. (Courtesy Bob Steelquist). Forest Service photo.
After nearly 32 years of combined federal and state natural resource management public service, I retired.
I have been blessed with a rewarding career. But before that final day working in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary arrived, I had already applied for and been accepted as a volunteer wilderness ranger in the Pasayten Wilderness of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State. It was the best promotion of my career. Read more »
Smokey Bear fire danger signs can be seen on many national forests and grasslands as a reminder to visitors that, “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.” (U.S. Forest Service)
“Remember . . . Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.”
For more than 50 years, that iconic catch phrase grabbed the hearts and minds of generations of children, spurred a series of books, games and gifts, helped to change the face of wildland firefighting and prompted more than one child to grow up to be a forester.
“On Saturday morning’s, I would watch the ‘Farm Report’ just waiting for ‘Lassie’ to come on,” said Glenn Casamassa, a Long Island, New York, native who grew up to become a forester. “Right after the Farm Report I saw this bear talking about forest fires, and it got me thinking about the woods. As a kid, Smokey and his message really stuck in my head.” Read more »
Michaela Hall, a Job Corps alumna, challenged herself to learn firefighting skills as part of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, stationed at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on the Davidson River on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service)
For the second time, I spilled burn mix on my clothing as I reached to replace a drip torch, a wildland firefighting tool used to ignite fires for controlled burns.
After three days of working with the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, I was getting used to how things worked – except for the drip torch.
I’d spent the first seven years of my career buried behind papers and computers in the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When I heard of a job to improve firefighting training skills for Job Corps students, I jumped on it. As a Job Corps alumna, and someone who’s still passionate about the program, I felt that I was the perfect candidate. Read more »
For 70 years, children and adults have written to Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service symbol for wildfire prevention. So many letters were sent in the 1960s that the U.S. Postal Service authorized a ZIP code – 20252 – just for Smokey. (U.S. Forest Service)
Smokey Bear, the iconic symbol of wildfire prevention for 70 years, is for many people a comforting symbol of a promise that everything will be okay. As long as we all work together, as one of Smokey’s young pen pals wrote recently.
“Dear Smokey: I would like to be a Junior Forest Ranger and help the big rangers. I promise to look after the forest and watch out for baddies making fires and damaging trees. Love Adam”
The letters come one-by-one or in neatly piled stacks, with carefully drawn portraits and hastily scrawled letters. They want to know if Smokey Bear is okay. They ask if he can write to them. They show compassion, knowing Smokey’s mother did not make it out of the fire. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell talks about a drawing by Joyce Qin, the 11-year-old Memphis-area girl who became the 2014 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest winner. Looking on from left to right is Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and Renee Green-Smith, National Information Center manager. (U.S. Forest Service/Dominic Cumberland)
Joyce Qin has some pretty proud grandparents. They made their first trip from China to Washington, D.C., to watch U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell honor the 11-year-old Memphis-area student as the national winner of the 2014 Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl Poster Contest.
“Joyce competed against 30,000 contestants. This is quite an accomplishment,” Tidwell said as Qin’s grandparents, parents, brother and a host of Forest Service employees looked on. “We use this contest as a tool to convey our messages about preventing wildfires and caring for the land. Through artistry, we have another way to connect people to the importance of water, air and wildlife.” Read more »
Youth who were part of the filming of “Untrammeled” marvel at the stars appearing overhead, as twilight descends on camp in the Scapegoat Wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)
While my days of adventuring into the back country are by no means over, it is becoming increasingly apparent that my generation is approaching the inevitable time when we must pass the torch on to the next generation of wilderness and natural resource stewards.
On my recent trip to Missoula, Montana, I was privileged and extremely pleased to see a group of young people who will help carry that torch. My heart is more at peace about our future after my experience viewing the U.S. Forest Service movie “Untrammeled” at the University of Montana. Read more »