The USFS Motto – Caring for the Land and Serving People

The big idea behind working for the United States Forest Service can be summed up in the simplest way possible by the USFS motto “Caring for the Land and Serving People”. This motto serves underlies all aspects of the USFS. From the National Forest System managing public lands to the Research and Development department innovating new technologies land management practices, and all those major divisions in between, at the core of every USFS division is a stewardship for the environment and a commitment to serving the people who live there for the current and future generations to come. Today I’ll talk about two experiences I’ve had since moving to Asheville, NC as an intern with the USFS which have reminded me of their motto and how I’ve adopted it too.

Smokey Bear cares for the land

As many people who are familiar with the USFS may know, or anyone interested in the outdoors from a young age, Smokey Bear has been a national symbol for preventing forest fires for almost 80 years now. He is one of the most successful ways that the Forest Service has promoted caring for the land in my opinion, and has directly impacted peoples lives to be better stewards of the environment. Smokey Bear has taught the public to do everything we can as people to prevent human caused wildfires since the 1940’s through ads and posters informing people how human caused wildfires can start and how “YOU can prevent forest fires”. Smokey has transcended the ad campaign and actually has a physical presence as a character/mascot of the Forest Service who is a symbol and friend for the youth, continuing to inspire young stewards of the land from an early age to do what they can to prevent wildfires. I was lucky enough to be Smokey Bear for a video to celebrate his 79th birthday at the Supervisors Office of the National Forest in North Carolina.

Since bears are big, so is Smokey’s costume. And as a tall, new person on the team, everyone looked at me during the office meeting when we were informed that our office was making a video to celebrate his birthday. Being Smokey is just one of those things you do while working for the Forest Service. That day it was meant to be. I remember Smokey Bear as a kid and since my time interning with the National Forests in North Carolina I’ve heard stories from colleagues about their memory of Smokey, and other tales of Smokey’s impact on friends and family. I believe Smokey is one of the most creative and effective expressions of “Caring for the Land” by the USFS. He has touched millions of lives with his words of wisdom and has instilled a land ethic in so many young people, reminding individuals all across the country to be better stewards. While being Smokey I got to speak with a colleague’s grandson on facetime who was so excited to meet Smokey. Having that wholesome interaction with young kid was fulfilling for my spirit and reminded me the importance of Smokey and his impact on the public upholding the USFS motto.

Having Fun in the Water

While there are many ways that the USFS serves people, providing awesome outdoor opportunities for recreation is my favorite way that the National Forest System serves people. On the day I took the following videos, I was not on the job but actually one of the members of the public enjoying some of the phenomenal waterfalls that live within the Pisgah National Forest. Turtleback Falls (left) and Rainbow Falls (right).

Turtleback Falls (left): On this August summer day, there were several families and groups of friends who had found refreshment in the cool waters of the Horsepasture River enjoying the magnificent rock formations which act as a sort of natural water park. People come to Turtleback falls to slide off the smooth rock into an 8′ drop or so into the pool beneath. The massive bedrock outcropping creates a great shape and form for this, and the receiving pool is nicely semicircular, with large boulders peppering the perimeter along the semicircular shape, perfect for hanging out along the edge of the pool and watching people slide down. It’s almost as if nature wanted this waterfall and pool to be celebrated this way.

Rainbow Falls (right): The same day I visited Rainbow Falls, which is just a 1/4 mile or so downstream from Turtleback Falls. There were even more people here as the waterfall and pool are humongous and conducive for larger crowds. Here, people swim in the big natural pool and simply enjoy the tranquility and view of this beautiful waterfall, especially rainbows which can be seen typically earlier in the day here when the sun goes through the mist from a good angle. I was yet again amazed to discover such a huge waterfall I never saw before, even after spending my entire life of 24 years in this state. I continue to be not only impressed, but surprised too, by the natural wonders that live within National Forests of my home state. I can only imagine all the other wonders across the country.

All this fanboy-ing over waterfalls leads me to say, that the National Forest System provides outstanding opportunities for the public to connect to nature and enjoy our natural world. There is so much to discover, to experience, and to learn, about the public lands of the US. This internship through Environment for the Americas has allowed me to progress my career in a fulfilling way and enabled me to explore places that I may not have had the chance to otherwise. There is so much to discover in the great outdoors and I’m grateful for the opportunity to partake in that myself while facilitating others to pursue their own natural discoveries on public lands by working with EFTA and the USFS.

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