Com­mu­nity got For­est Ser­vice through govern­ment shut­down

Shared stew­ard­ship es­sen­tial to main­tain­ing our pub­lic lands

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED - BY CAL JOYNER

The five-week par­tial govern­ment shut­down was a try­ing time for USDA For­est Ser­vice em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies. But, with your help, we made it through. On be­half of For­est Ser­vice em­ploy­ees in the South­west­ern Re­gion, I want to thank you, our com­mu­ni­ties, for your ex­pres­sions of care and con­cern for our fed­eral work­force. It is heart­warm­ing and hum­bling to know that you saw be­yond the “work­force” to see the peo­ple and the im­pact on their lives.

Times like these ac­cen­tu­ate the im­por­tance of shared stew­ard­ship. Our mu­tual com­mit­ment to pub­lic lands and each other is in­valu­able. We are well aware of the part­ner, vol­un­teer and com­mu­nity work that kept some of our vis­i­tor ser­vices func­tion­ing. We are grate­ful to and have great re­spect for our part­ners. We are so thank­ful for those strong part­ner­ships we have in place to help de­liver our mis­sion of car­ing for the land and serv­ing peo­ple.

Dur­ing the past five weeks, cit­i­zens, part­ners, elected of­fi­cials, other pub­lic ser­vants, tribal and land grant com­mu­ni­ties and the me­dia showed up for us. For ex­am­ple, pri­vate cit­i­zens, busi­nesses and providers of all types of ser­vices made ex­tra­or­di­nary of­fers to­ward the nour­ish­ment, care and well-be­ing of our em­ploy­ees; the me­dia car­ried on our “con­ser­va­tion con­ver­sa­tion” on so­cial me­dia, TV and news­pa­pers; our part­ners car­ried on our shared con­ser­va­tion work; vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tions picked up trash at trail­heads and camp­grounds; and cit­i­zens stocked out­door re­strooms with essen­tials.

At the same time, many of our em­ploy­ees con­tin­ued to per­form work vi­tal to pub­lic safety as well as on­go­ing per­mits and con­tracts, some with­out the guar­an­tee of pay. Still oth­ers were not al­lowed to per­form the work they’ve ded­i­cated their lives to. They are all grate­ful to you and the sup­port the com­mu­nity has shown. I’m grate­ful to work around so many re­silient and ded­i­cated fed­eral em­ploy­ees and I know we are all ap­pre­cia­tive of the role our com­mu­ni­ties played in sup­port­ing us.

Across the South­west­ern Re­gion of the For­est Ser­vice, we man­age 11 na­tional forests and grass­lands. There are over 2,200 For­est Ser­vice em­ploy­ees who work and live in com­mu­ni­ties across the four states of Ari­zona, New Mex­ico, Texas and Ok­la­homa.

Our com­mu­ni­ties have a spe­cial his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural and spir­i­tual bond with the land. This re­gion is home to over 50 Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes and pueb­los, in ad­di­tion to the many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties that con­tinue to rely on pub­lic lands for tra­di­tional uses, such as food, heat, folk reme­dies and re­li­gious prac­tices. Sim­i­larly, na­tional forests and grass­lands are an es­sen­tial el­e­ment in com­mu­ni­ties that pro­vide goods and ser­vices such as clean wa­ter and world-class recre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties.

As com­mu­nity mem­bers, our shared val­ues con­nect us and we share in life’s tri­als and tri­umphs. We cher­ish our part in the com­mu­nity con­nec­tion and will con­tinue to strive to be good neigh­bors.

We thank you whole­heart­edly for the out­pour­ing of sup­port, and we look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our con­ser­va­tion mis­sion with you in the fu­ture.

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