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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Oregon Department of Forestry selects Mike Shaw as new Central Oregon District Forester


Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has selected Mike Shaw as the new District Forester for the Central Oregon District (COD).  Shaw replaces George Ponte who recently retired after more than seven years as District Forester and 26 years with the Department.  COD provides wildfire protection and administers the Forest Practices Act on approximately 2.2 million acres of private and non-federal public land throughout eleven counties in Oregon.  As District Forester, Shaw will manage 35 permanent employees and 90 seasonal firefighters in offices in Prineville, Sisters, The Dalles, John Day, and Fossil.
Shaw has been with ODF for sixteen years, starting as a Forest Practices Forester in the Toledo Unit of the West Oregon District.  He served in a similar position in Wallowa, prior to promoting to Unit Forester for the Wallowa Unit.  In December of 2014 Shaw left northeast Oregon to work as ODF’s Eastern Oregon Assistant Area Director.  Shaw’s prior experience in both Protection and Private Forests Divisions and in various locations within the agency will provide a good foundation as he assumes his leadership role in the Central Oregon District.  In addition to his experience in these positions Shaw has served on ODF’s Incident Management Team 1 as Situation Unit Leader and as Planning Section Chief.  Shaw is a graduate of Oregon State University, holding a bachelor’s degree in Forest Management.

The interview committee chose Mike Shaw from a pool of qualified candidates based on experience and answers to interview questions.  Candidates were interviewed by a panel of Central Oregon District employees and a diverse panel comprised of local stakeholders, agency cooperators, ODF administrators and Travis Medema, ODF’s Eastern Oregon Area Director.  “I am really looking forward to working with a great group of employees and furthering the mission of ODF in Central Oregon”, states Shaw.  “The past three fire seasons have been particularly challenging and I am excited for the opportunities these challenges may afford as we move into the future.”  Mike has made his home in central Oregon with his wife and children, where they are integrating into the community and exploring the area.  Shaw is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys skiing with his family during the winter.
George Ponte worked in various positions around the state prior to becoming the COD District Forester, he started his career in the Western Lane District.  Before working for ODF Ponte spent a couple fire seasons working for the Douglas Forest Protective Association (partner agency to ODF) and some time with the US Forest Service.  George held positions as Stewardship Forester, Unit Forester, and Assistant Area Director and in positions on ODF’s Incident Management Teams.  Since 1996 George and his wife Michelle, whom he met while working at Western Lane, have called central Oregon home.  Significant fire activity in central Oregon has kept Ponte busy for the last several years, this upcoming summer he is looking forward to watching thunderstorms from his deck with his wife without the worries of how many fires are starting.  However, he has assured COD employees that we will see him from time to time.

Oregon Department of Forestry partners with Ritter landowners


Ritter, Oregon…Folks in Ritter are used to facing the challenges of living in remote Oregon and finding unusual solutions.  Back in 2014 that is exactly what a group of landowners did, forming the Ritter Collaborative.  The collaborative focuses on enhancing land productivity and restoring the landscape.  Landowners formed the collaborative to improve the economics and efficiencies for on the ground work.  This unique collaborative is made up entirely of private landowners.  Landowners vary from working cattle operations, to residential homes, to recreational uses, with full time, part time, and seasonal residents.  The landowner’s passion for the land, and the desire to use science to determine projects across the landscape has united them.  
Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Committee for Family Forestlands supported the collaborative early on with the hope of modeling similar projects in other communities around the state.  ODF assisted the collaborative by helping landowners apply for grants, and now serves as the fiscal agent for a Model Watershed Cooperative Grant from the US Forest Service which provided funds to hire Curt Qual as the Ritter Collaborative Coordinator, through Oregon State University Extension Service.  As the coordinator Curt represents the Ritter Collaborative at a larger scale in efforts such as the John Day Basin Partnership which is part of the all lands approach being used on private and public forestlands across Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.  Qual also works with landowner members to help them gather and interpret information and engage additional landowners inside the collaborative area. 
The Ritter Collaborative has developed a Strategic Action Plan to help members prioritize projects across the landscape.  Landowners working cooperatively on projects such as aspen restoration, juniper removal, noxious weed control, and streamside enhancements are able to combine project work across landowners to get a better price from the contractor.  The Strategic Action Plan is designed to be dynamic to adjust to changes in the land.
Late this fall the collaborative partnered with ODF’s John Day Unit and Fossil Sub-Unit.  Firefighters from Fossil used collaborative project work to gain experience using a chainsaw, focusing on falling, limbing, and bucking trees.  Experienced firefighters were able to mentor firefighters who had limited experience using a saw.  Approximately 50 acres were treated for five different landowners.  One project focused on aspen restoration, removing juniper which had encroached and was competing with the aspen grove.  The remaining work was part of larger juniper removal projects to help landowners with their efforts.  Firefighters were available to respond to wildfires while they were working on the projects, but also gaining useful skills.  The Ritter Collaborative has provided funds to ODF’s John Day foresters to collect GPS and photo site monitoring to track the work as it occurs and to monitor the effects of the projects over the landscape.  This data will be provided to the collaborative for use in adapting the Strategic Action Plan.
For more information on the Ritter Collaborative and the partnerships they have developed contact Curt Qual, Ritter Collaborative Coordinator (541)575-1139.