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Field Program

[Image Description: Two MCC members taking a brief break; one is sitting on a rock, the other is standing nearby. They are both in their uniforms, looking out at the expansive, mountain view surrounding them.]

Judge, Jury, and Executioners

A crew member holds a spray paint can up to their face with a serious expression, as they get ready to mark some trees!

The season is in full swing at this point. The three saws assigned to my crew (the Flathead National Forest forestry crew) have seen some things. We're often tasked with cutting small trees in order to thin around healthier, larger trees. Believe it or not, this can take a toll on your psyche. While the importance of this work is evident to us and we understand that taking these young trees' lives is necessary to supress wildfire in our landscapes, we can't help but feel like the executioners. But this past hitch we've gotten to do something we've never gotten to do before: save lives.

Timber marking doesn't seem like glamorous work. You're walking through the woods, spray painting huge trees while also climbing through brush and downed trees. But in the coming years, these very trees that we've marked will survive a logging operation. After the loggers come and take everything we haven't painted, these beautiful and healthy trees will have space to breathe and reproduce. Their superior genetics will improve that same tree stand for generations to come. Suddenly we're the judges and jury, making sure that the trees that should survive, do.

The pressure to choose the right trees is very high. That is why we must ensure that we know what we are doing and ask the right questions. We're not alone, the Forest Service is here to help us along the way. As long as we stay vigilant and of a clear mind, we will make a positive and lasting impact on our landscape.