US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
                                                 April 6, 2009
                                                                                                       Research &

Ward                         Research Forester Ward McCaughey, Missoula, has retired after 34 years with the
                    Forest Service. He began his career as a student forestry technician with the Intermountain
McCaughey           Station, and three degrees later (UM, MSU, MSU), became a Research Forester. He spent
Retires             most of his career stationed at the Bozeman Forestry Sciences Lab, but in 2002 moved to
                    Missoula. He is widely regarded for his research on whitebark pine regeneration ecology
                    and management, and for his leadership of the Tenderfoot Experimental Forest where he
                    implemented a restoration study of 2-aged lodgepole pine (thinning and burning).
                             For several years Ward was the Station’s representative for Experimental Forests at
                    national meetings. His leadership, good nature, and team spirit will be missed. Ward lives
                    with his wife Kathy in Stevensville, Montana, where they are building a new home, and he
                    plans to do a lot of fishing, hunting, and building custom fishing poles. A potluck dinner is
                    planned in Missoula on Thursday, April 16 at 6 pm at Spirit of Peace Community Church,
                    506 Toole Ave, Missoula, MT 59802, with tributes to follow. Contact Janelle Anderson
                    (jvanderson@fs.fed.us) by April 10 to RSVP, and Elaine Sutherland (esutherland@fs.fed.us)
                    if you’d like to speak. A book of photos, letters and other remembrances is being compiled
                    by Patricia Lynam (plynam@fs.fed.us).

                                             Research Ecologist Dean Pearson, Missoula, has returned from
Pearson Picks                        Washington, D.C. where he was presented the Forest Service’s Early
                                     Career Scientist Award. Dean was recognized for his many significant
Up Early                             contributions to the fields of biological control, invasive species ecology,
Career Scientist                     and wildlife biology. His research has been incorporated into new
                                     biocontrol textbooks and key review papers, and has greatly increased the
Award                                emphasis on agent efficacy in biocontrol research and applications.
                                             The ceremony included a welcome by Acting R&D Deputy Chief,
                    and former RMRS Station Director, Dave Cleaves; opening remarks by Acting Deputy
                    Undersecretary (NRE) Ann Bartuska; and greetings by Chief Gail Kimbell.

                             Research Ecologist Faith Ann Heinsch and Supervisory Research Physical Scientist
Heinsch and         Jack Cohen, Missoula, were invited to participate in the Wildland Urban Interface
Cohen Invited       Conference, sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs on March 24-26,
                    2009, in Reno, Nevada. The meeting provided information on prevention, education and
to Wildland         mitigation; suppression strategies and tactics; and wildland fire policy. Faith Ann gave the
Urban Interface     keynote address titled “Implications of Climate Change for Drought and Wildland Fire,”
                    while Jack provided a plenary talk asking the question “Can Human Communities Safely
Meeting             Co-exist with Wildland Fire?” Participants included approximately 300 federal, state, and
                    local fire service personnel, including scientists, federal and state wildland fire agency
                    personnel, career and volunteer fire chiefs, fire education and prevention specialists,
                    wildland firefighters, and fire management officers.

                            The Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper (4-5-09) featured a story on the new lab
RMRS in the         addition at Station headquarters, and funding from the American Recovery and
News                Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that adds 6,000 square feet to the facility over what was initially
                    funded. Read about it at http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20090405/NEWS01/90404015.
                         Digital Voice Recording: An Efficient Alternative for Data Collection, Research
Hot Off the     Note RMRS-RN-38, by Mark Rumble, Thomas Juntti, Thomas Bonnot, and Joshua
Press           Millspaugh.
                         Study designs are usually constrained by logistical and budgetary considerations that
                can affect the depth and breadth of the research. Little attention has been paid to increasing
                the efficiency of data recording. Digital voice recording and translation may offer improved
                efficiency of field personnel. Using this technology, researchers increased their data
                collection by 55 percent. Digital voice recording was useful for the intense, repetitive, and
                structured data set they collected on black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) nest sites
                and perhaps for other studies. Copies are available from Publications Distribution at 970-
                498-1392 or on the Web at http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_rn038.html.

                         The RMRS Budget Staff is in the process of evaluating the duties and workload of
Budget Link     the recently vacated Budget Analyst position (Barbara Plantt). “In case you need assistance
Offers          from us, and are wondering who to call, a link to our budget webpage showing who is
                currently doing what can be found at http://fsweb.rmrs.fs.fed.us/budget/files/BF_Staff_04-
Assistance      29-08.xls,” said Budget Officer Sheila Till. “You can always find this information if you go
                to the budget webpage, scroll to the bottom, and click on ‘Our Roles & Responsibilities.’
                Feel free to call anyone on our staff if you need assistance or have questions,” said Sheila.

                         To help celebrate Earth Day, RMRS is sponsoring a month-long Carbon
RMRS Sponsors   Saver/Footprint Reduction Contest between all Station labs. The contest is built around
Earth Day       taking alternative transportation to work during the month of April. Rules and a spreadsheet
                to help track points accrued at each location were sent to all employees in a 1900 memo
Contest         dated March 31, 2009. Tracking spreadsheets will be posted in each building. Employees
                interested in participating may sign up on one of these sheets to track their progress. The
                sheets will be collected and tallied on April 30, and the winning building will be announced
                in the Explorer newsletter. Each lab is also encouraged to host an Earth Day potluck and/or
                attend local celebrations to learn more about, and discuss ways to, make our daily
                operations, our facilities, and our lifestyles more sustainable.

                        The Joint Fire Science Program website April update is now available at
JFSP Web        http://www.firescience.gov. It features a Findings Search capability that contains over 1,100
Update          science findings described by 9 attributes including subject, large geographic areas,
                ecoregions, and more. Almost all of the completed JFSP sponsored research projects have
                been entered into this new database.

                        Public land agencies are suffering under high levels of employee dissatisfaction and
House Panel     must aggressively improve standards for their workers, experts recently told a U.S. House of
Addresses Low   Representatives panel. The E&E Reporter says that, according to employee groups and
                agency leaders, the reasons for low morale are varied, but are issues that must be addressed
Employee        to ensure the agencies complete their missions.
Morale                  A report by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service (PPS) says land agencies
                have some of the lowest levels of employee job satisfaction. Out of the 222 agencies and
                sub-agencies evaluated in the biennial study, the National Park Service ranked 160 in terms
                of performance related to employee satisfaction and engagement with a score of 58.2
                percent. The Bureau of Land Management scored slightly higher with 58.4 percent and a
                ranking of 157, while the Forest Service scored 59.9 percent with a ranking of 140.
                        “Clearly, there is much work to be done to improve employee moral and
                engagement in all three agencies, and the Forest Service in particular may have the greatest
                hurdles to overcome,” said Kevin Simpson, executive vice president of PPS.
                                Ron Thatcher, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees’ Forest
                       Service Council, says that front line employees attribute their low morale to a variety of
                       factors that collectively prevent them from doing their job. “Growing dedication of agency
                       funding for wildfire suppression has been a big contributor to low morale,” he said. “The
                       agency has repeatedly run out of firefighting money and transferred hundreds of millions
                       from other programs to cover wildfire costs. For instance, the agency had $1.2 billion
                       budgeted last year for fire suppression, but it had to transfer at least $400 million from other
                       programs that fell short,” he said. He also attributes low morale to an endless stream of
                       reorganizations and new technologies intended to streamline agency operations, including
                       the centralization of the agency’s information technology and human resources operations.
                                Agency representatives told the subcommittee that they were taking steps to address
                       the problems, through conceded that in many cases they take responsibility for factors that
                       have hurt the morale of their employees. Forest Service Associate Chief Hank Kashdan
                       admitted that there have been several misfires with initiatives like the centralization of
                       agency operations that have contributed to an overall decline in employee satisfaction.
                       “Frankly, we’ve had the best and worst management over the last 15 years,” said Kashdan.
                       “That’s no way to run a railroad, and that has hurt our employees.” He said, however, that
                       since most of the centralization efforts are completed, some improvement should be in sight.
                       Kashdan also said he was encouraged by an item in the current budget proposal that calls for
                       the creation of a new $282 million contingent reserve fund for combating catastrophic
                       wildfires. He said the fund would help reduce the overall burden on the agency’s operations,
                       thereby taking pressure off other agency priorities.

                                A bill offered in the Senate (S-629) would ease restrictions on federal retirees
Proposed Bill          returning to work for the government by allowing reemployment of federal annuitants
                       without offset between their salaries and annuities. This applies to part-time or project work
Directed to            of up to 520 hours in the first six months following the start of annuity payments, up to
Returning              1,040 hours in any 12-month period, and up to 3,120 hours total for the annuitant’s lifetime.
                       The reemployed annuitants would not be eligible to make new contributions to the Thrift
Retirees               Savings Plan or increase their annuities, and their insurance coverage would be unaffected.

                                When was the last time you tested your ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
Test Your              protected outlets? You know, the ones that have the little test button and are often found in
GFCI                   bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoors. A ground fault circuit interrupter is an inexpensive
                       electrical device that, if installed in household branch circuits, could prevent over two-thirds
                       of the approximately 300 electrocutions still occurring each year in and around the home.
                       Installation of the device could also prevent thousands annual burn and electric shock
                       injuries. Although these are required in new construction, it’s a wise decision to upgrade
                       older homes with GFCI’s too.
                                An easy way to test GFCI’s is to plug a nightlight into the outlet, turn the nightlight
                       on and press the “Test” button. The nightlight should turn off. Press the “Reset” button and
                       the nightlight should turn back on. If your GFCI fails its test, contact an electrician to get it
                       fixed. GFCI’s do wear out over time. To ensure your family is protected, test your GFCI
                       protected receptacles once a month.

        The Explorer is a weekly employee newsletter of the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
                                Editor: Rick Fletcher, 970-498-1372, rfletcher@fs.fed.us.

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