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Pathways Newsletter

[Image Description: Two MCC members are walking away on a rocky trail, carrying their packs, surrounded by burnt orange bushes. Through the haze in the background, there are a multitude of mountains, overlapping one another.]

Measuring Up

A crew leader kneels uphill from the photographer. They are holding a long tape measure that the photographer is holding onto the other end of.

Being on a forestry crew in the Flathead National Forest means that every hitch our work is always changing. First, we're thinning a thick stand of lodgepole pines that, despite being over 20 years old, were so thin and sickly from being overcrowded that you could barely stick your hand through it without getting caught up. In the same hitch, we pivoted to measuring out hundred-foot sections at a time in order to create a 12-acre large grid of pin flags for a whitebark pine genetic study. We're no strangers to being flexible. But while the variety of work keeps us on our toes and means we're always learning new things, it comes with its own challenges.

While having a variety of work can be exciting, it also means that we're often having to reset our skill level to zero, sometimes multiple times a hitch. Just as we're getting into a groove and making tremendous progress on these lodgepole stands, we're asked to suddenly do something we've never done before. Don't get me wrong, it's a privilege to be a part of such an important scientific study on whitebark pine genetic resistance. At every pin flag we put down a young whitebark pine will be planted and monitored for its entire life in order to determine which genetic families of this species are most resistant to the blister rust that is wiping them out. But at the same time, we're falling on this steep slope, having to ask tons of questions, all while coordinating with Forest Service employees that have done this all before. It can be hard to measure up to the task at hand.

But the fact of the matter is, we did measure up. Despite the blisters and the scorching sun we managed to do our job and help complete this grid in time for the planters to come in. And on top of all that we completed multiple sections of thinning that increased the scenic value of the North Fork Road near Glacier National Park. All in one hitch. Measuring up isn't always easy. But when the stakes are so high and our crew so motivated to learn new things, anything is possible.