Alamo recognized for forestry project

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The Alamo Navajo School Board was honored at a ceremony in December in Washington, D.C., in which the U.S. Forest Service 2012 Chief’s Award for Cultural Transformation was bestowed on Ian Fox, Alamo’s regional coordinator for the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program and the board’s forestry program. Wanting to recognize the importance of this award, the Southwest Regional Forester, Cliff Dils, traveled to Alamo on Feb. 28 to additionally and personally bestow the award on ANSB’S board of directors.

Dils commended Alamo for its exemplary accomplishments in improving the Forest service’s diversity and embracing the culture and needs of the people in Alamo.

The Collaborative Forest Restoration Project Act was created with federal legislation in 2001, Fox explained in a phone interview. The act authorized up to $5 million annually to be awarded through the Forest Service for grants to do fuels reduction and restoration treatments on public lands. The money, Fox said, is to be applied to get fuel reduction treatments done on the ground and create jobs and wood manufacturing projects.

The Alamo Navajo School Board’s Natural Resource Department received a CFRP grant in 2008 providing funds to assist the school board in hiring a natural resource manager and crews, using Alamo tribal members to develop a restoration crew so they could do some of the work needed. The grant provided seed money to have a crew in place that could work around the state and sustain itself.

“So that crew was successful in the Magdalena Ranger District,” Fox said. “We continued to work with that crew to develop their skill set.”

Fox said the Forest Service in New Mexico recognized it is becoming more difficult to hire people for seasonal field work.

“It’s getting harder to forecast budgets,” Fox said. “And so if we have a local crew, we can contract with them as money becomes available.”

So the Forest Service created a participating agreement in 2009 with the Alamo School Board, which allowed the Forest Service to keep hiring the Alamo crew and provide training for crew members. They have been trained in planning and monitoring the forest, how to do goshawk and spotted owl surveys, forest treatments, including unit layout and tree marking.

“We provided training to increase their skill set so it was a better trained workforce,” Fox said. “They have had contracts in New Mexico and Arizona. We got them really busy.”

The crew has had contract jobs in the Pinto Mountains, the Gila and near the Canadian River where they provided tamarisk treatments, getting rid of invasive salt cedars that damage riparian areas. The work keeps 10 to 12 Alamo Navajo men with steady work, as well as some additional trained community members when needed.

“They have been picking up a lot of work,” he said. “The sky is the limit.”

The Cultural Transformation Award recognizes an outstanding individual, group, or organization that has demonstrated highly effective and measurable contributions toward making the Forest Service an employer of choice; creating a fair, diverse, inclusive and effective workplace.

“The chief of the Forest Service recognized that was a really cool way to get our work done,” Fox said. “We accomplished the ability to look outside of how we traditionally get the work done. It was a collaborative effort that has spawned very positive end results.”