USDA Forest Service

Independent Resources Enterprise Team


Team Leader:
Laurie A. Thorpe

Enterprise Program Director:
William Helin
Washington Office

Enterprise - Reinvention LabUSDA Forest Service United States Department of Agriculture

Team Members

INDEX: Laurie A. Thorpe | El Aran | Heidi Bigler Cole | Patty Burel | Ross Calhoun | Monica Chandler | Julie A. Cox | Sara Daehn | Vanessa De Jean | John J. Diefenderfer | Mary Ellen Emerick | DeeDee Epperson | Gwen Ernst-Ulrich | Rachel Franchina | Todd Harbin | Mike Hill | Marilyn Hryciw | Kathy Mitchell | Jami Nield | John Titre | Tiffany Totten | Douglas Weinmann | Cat Woods | Cheri Ziebart

[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Laurie A Thorpe]Team Leader, Project Leader and Facilitator

Laurie has been with the Forest Service since 1980, spending eight years as a district ranger. Her education includes a bachelor's degree in forestry, graduate work in watershed management and completion of the Marketing Resource Group training assignment.

  • Primary duties include: Business owner and account manager. Her primary duties are to acquire business, provide project direction and oversee project completion. Laurie also serves as a primary contact for clients.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for El Aran]Data Service Specialist

Aran has been with the Forest Service since 2001, when he started in Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness Resources. He has a master's degree in geography, specializing in geographic information technology, and is skilled in GIS and database management for the National Visitor Use Monitoring Program, Recreation Facility Analysis; Infra Recreation Sites, Trails, Tracs Surveys, Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers and Federal Real Property Profiles; Recreation Site Improvement; National Recreation Reservation System; the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; and Motor Vehicle Use Map.

  • Primary duties include: GIS analysis and product development for Sustainable Recreation Supply and Demand Analyses, Outfitter Guide Analyses; as well as GIS support for Independent Resources Team projects as requested, including 3-D modeling, thematic mapping, Google Earth product development and videos.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Heidi Bigler Cole]Social Scientist

Heidi has worked for the Forest Service since 1989. Her experience includes organizational development: change initiation and management, program evaluation and improvement, technology transfer, public affairs and collaboration. Her education includes a bachelor's in speech communication, a Master of Science in environmental science and a PhD in social science/natural resources.

  • Primary duties include: Working with forest and regional units to develop organizational goals, identify existing strengths and create paths toward desired outcomes. Organizational change-related projects include: facilitating dialogues and systems thinking with people wanting to create a more inclusive Forest Service, working at a grassroots level toward Cultural Transformation, developing communication strategies and courses of action to boost sustainable operations and reduce the Forest Service's carbon footprint, and working with units to create strategies for becoming more efficient and relevant in this climate of budget reductions. Heidi also provides stress reduction training and guidance to groups.
  • Fire qualifications: Type III, IIO
  • Certifications: Certified Professional Facilitator, Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator, Mediator
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Patty Burel]Public Affairs Specialist

Patty has been with the Forest Service since 1987 and was a public affairs officer from 1992 to 2009. With a public affairs and communications background, she has successfully developed communication plans in support of the Forest Service's mission. She has district, forest, regional and special project level experience in collaboration, media relations, crisis communications, legislative affairs, community relations/public involvement, facilitation, event planning and social media communications. Her work has included successful development of communication tools to include news releases, information sheets, accomplishment reports and PowerPoint presentations. Patty's education includes a bachelor's degree in journalism.

  • Primary duties include: Patty is a communications specialist, partnership coordinator and public affairs planner. Her areas of specialization include preparing grants and agreements, developing communication plans and organizing and writing communication tools/products.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Ross Calhoun] Cartographic Technician - STEP

Ross has been with the Forest Service since 2011, beginning as a volunteer summer intern with the Independent Resources Data Team. He has been involved with collaboration projects using the Google Apps suite and ESRI software. His education includes a bachelor's degree in history with a minor in geography, graduate certificate in GIS and current enrollment as a master's student in geography.

  • Primary duties include: GIS analysis, development and support. Research and support with a variety of technological matters as requested.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Monica Chandler]Program Support Assistant

Monica was hired on with the Forest Service in 2010 as an office automation assistant, fire clerk and information receptionist. She joined Independent Resources as a program support assistant in 2011. Her education includes a bachelor's degree in computer information systems management. Monica's previous experience includes program management and development, facilitation and human resources.

  • Primary duties include: Independent Resources Data Team member serving as primary database developer, specializing in program/process automation and reporting through the use of Excel, Access, SharePoint and programming languages.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Julie A Cox]Lead Public Affairs Specialist

Julie began working with the Forest Service in 1989 and has experience in public affairs, web content and design, writing, editing, collaboration, interpretation and environmental education. Her education includes a bachelor's in journalism.

  • Primary duties include: Providing communications advice and planning and products for continued implementation of the Recreation Enhancement Act on both the national and regional levels. National Recreation Resource Advisory Committee Coordinator. Developing communications materials, including website, community of practice, communications strategies, etc., in support of sustainable recreation. Continuously improving recreation presence on external websites and through social media for the Pacific Northwest Region.
  • Fire Qualifications: Type III IIO, firefighter
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Sara Daehn]Program Support Assistant

Sara began working with the Forest Service in 2011 as a program support assistant on Independent Resources' Communications Team. Before joining the Forest Service, Sara spent three years as news editor at a weekly newspaper in northeast Iowa. She received a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in environmental science in 2006.

  • Primary duties include: Writing, editing, website content and development and completing administrative support tasks as requested.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Vanessa De Jean]Accounting Technician

Vanessa’s career with the Forest Service began in 2003 with Budget and Finance on the Deschutes National Forest, working as an accounting technician. In 2005, she accepted a detail to Albuquerque Service Center (ASC) to work on a special stand-up team helping management to process contract, agreement and miscellaneous payments during the initial-centralization payment process. After ASC, Vanessa returned to central Oregon and worked in several different departments acquiring specialized experience dealing with fire contracting and finance on the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, administration on the Bend Fort/Rock Ranger District, acquisition management, grants and agreements and property management at the Regional Office. She also had short details working in engineering, fleet and human resources. In 2010, Vanessa joined Independent Resources as an accounting technician.

  • Primary duties include: Responsible for all budget and finance functions. Assisting in managing and tracking all contracts, agreements, work orders, travel, cost and budget.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for John J. Diefenderfer]Program Specialist / Acting Administrative Team Lead

Fender joined the Forest Service full time in 2010 as a program specialist/acting administrative team lead with Independent Resources. Fender has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master of Business Administration. His past work experience includes working as a managing member of, an internet-based accounting software, and owner/manager of Accounting Online, as well as seasonal positions as lead recreation ranger on the Salt Lake Ranger District and law enforcement/fee collection ranger for the National Park Service.

  • Primary duties include: Certified contracting officer representative. Monitoring Independent Resources’ financial viability by tracking expenses, revenues and obligations. Performing budget and financial analysis. Approving travel and reimbursement, overtime authorizations, paychecks and meeting agendas. Coordinating General Services Administration contracts. Directing, monitoring and managing client projects.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Mary Ellen Emerick]Natural Resource Specialist (Recreation)

Mary Ellen has over 20 years of experience with all four land management agencies, beginning as a seasonal National Park Service employee in 1987. She has a background in fire management, wilderness and recreation. Mary Ellen began working for Independent Resources full time in 2012.

  • Primary duties include: Provides expertise in recreation planning projects, including outfitter/guide needs assessments, implementation plans, development of recreation strategies and wilderness planning.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for DeeDee Epperson]Public Affairs Specialist

DeeDee started working for the Forest Service in 1989 and began enterprising in 2000 with Tom Leuschen's Fire Vision Enterprise Team. Independent Resources has been utilizing DeeDee for various functions since 2002. She became a full time team member in 2005. She has worked in office services, computers, public affairs, geographic information systems (GIS), business management, wildland fire support dispatch and web management.

  • Primary duties include: Supporting Independent Resources team members to display information for clients using various media types. This includes researching project information, understanding each aspect of the information and organizing information so that it is easily displayed and understood by various audiences. Providing web support for various units within the Forest Service.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Gwen ErnstUlrich]Public Affairs Specialist

Gwen joined the Forest Service in 1998 and spent the first four years as a Job Corps program writing instructor before working in public affairs at forest and regional offices. She joined Independent Resources as a communications specialist in 2009. Gwen's experience includes working as a licensed secondary education teacher for more than two decades and teaching classes from preschool to college-level, including structured year-long courses and brief programs. Her education includes a bachelor's degree in journalism and French and a master's in English.

  • Primary duties include: Washington Office Economic Recovery Team member specializing in communications. Identifying and generating communication resources in support of telling the Forest Service American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) story, including coordinating reporting efforts. Providing communications support to other Independent Resources projects.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Rachel Franchina]Lead Recreation Planner

Rachel has worked for the Forest Service since 2002 as a recreation program manager and planner. She has a bachelor's degree in recreation management and a master's in forestry with a natural resources recreation emphasis.

  • Primary duties include: Managing and providing technical expertise on regional, forest and district level recreation planning and implementation projects. Her areas of specialization include needs assessment and visitor capacity planning, recreation fee program management and review and sustainable recreation planning. She also provides professional facilitation for meetings and planning projects.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Todd Harbin]Management and Program Analysts

Todd has worked for the Forest Service since 2000 with experience in fire and market research. His education includes a bachelor's in agriculture science and a master's in public administration. He began working with Independent Resources in 2004.

  • Primary duties include: Data management and analysis, business planning and feasibility studies.
  • Fire Qualifications: FFT1, HECM, SAWB, OHV
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Mike Hill]Landscape Architect

Mike's career has been devoted to empowering youth and communities to reconnect to their shared spaces and giving them the tools to be good stewards. A key element of Mike's work has been reaching out to underserved communities. Mike came to the Forest Service in 2009 with the WO Sustainable Operations program. His work included a pilot greenhouse gas inventory of the Sidney R. Yates building (2009), work on the agency-wide greenhouse gas inventory (2010) and pilot projects to help Yates building employees reduce their environmental footprint (2009-present). Mike also supported Sustainable Operations youth-focused partnerships through design, project administration and workshops. Mike joined Independent Resources in July 2011. He continues to work on projects with Sustainable Operations and has provided staff support for the Children's Forest Community of Practice and other youth initiatives of the National Partnership Office.

Key positions Mike held prior to coming to the Forest Service include outreach programs coordinator at the National Building Museum (1992-2002), partner at istudiodesign (2000- 2002) and executive director of the Shaw EcoVillage Project (2002-2005). Degrees include a Bachelor of Science in architecture from Catholic University (1987) and a master's in landscape architecture from Virginia Tech (2011).

  • Primary duties include: Facilitation and writing to support youth education and outreach projects, greenhouse gas reporting and sustainability pilot projects and sustainable landscape and community design.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Marilyn Hryciw]Management and Program Analysts

Marilyn has worked in the Forest Service Recreation Fee Program since 2002 providing budget and financial support at the regional and national program levels. She joined Independent Resources Enterprise Team in 2009. Her expertise is providing technical assistance, information and training on financial program systems, software and data related to the fee program.

  • Primary duties include: Recreation finance specialist providing budget and financial support in the form of technical assistance, information and training at both national and regional levels.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Kathy Mitchell]Communications Specialist

Kathy began working with the Forest Service full time in 1989. She has nine years of experience in recreation and planning program support, including data collection, management and analysis; six years in fire and aviation dispatching; and seven years in computer operation and micro-purchasing.

  • Primary duties include: Providing support in data collection, management and analysis for Recreation Enhancement Act continued implementation and visitor capacity and use studies.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Jami Nield]Business Management Assistant


  • Primary duties include:
  • Fire Qualifications:
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for John Titre]Social Scientist / Planner

John has worked full time with the Forest Service since 2008. He has worked on Gila National Forest as a forest planner. Prior to that, John did consulting on use estimation, visitor capacity and hydropower licensing. John has worked as a seasonal employee at Ashley and Shoshone national forests, Rocky Mountain National Park and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Colombia and has 16 years of experience with the United States Army Corps of Engineers Research Station. He has a bachelor's degree in resource management from Southern Illinois and a master's from Texas A&M in recreation. He completed his post graduate studies at Clemson University in environmental psychology, survey research and qualitative methods.

  • Primary duties include: Collaboration and public workshops, sensing using rapid assessment, place-based planning, sense of place, visitor capacity, customer satisfaction, water-based recreation, organizational learning, application and transfer of ideas to management.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Tiffany Totten]Program and Management Analyst

Tiffany began her career with the Forest Service in 2010 as a management and program analyst with Independent Resources. She has a bachelor's degree in applied psychology. Before beginning with the Forest Service, Tiffany owned a heavy excavation construction company, did mediation for small claims and family court, and worked for nonprofits under federal programs and funds with at-risk youth, disadvantaged adults and veterans in removing barriers to becoming employed.

  • Primary duties include: Establishing and maintaining proper documentation of Independent Resources' outreach activities. Providing current advice to Independent Resources leadership team regarding outreach strategies and hiring authorities. Developing customized outreach announcements in coordination with XO and work leaders and developing position descriptions. Posting and/or networking announcements per strategy as approved by XO. Gathering, analyzing and presenting outreach results. Serving as point of contact for inquires and responses with EP, HRM, Civil Rights and others for data calls, audits and supporting documentation.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Douglas Weinmann]Program Assistant

Doug has worked full time with the Forest Service since 2010, and was a seasonal employee since 1999 in Wildland Fire, Hazard Fuels Reduction, Recreation, Timber and Engineering for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Forest Service.

  • Primary duties include: Data collection support, web support and management, LiveMeeting support, webinar support, technical support and one-on-one stress management and reduction coach.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Cat Woods]Natural Recreation Specialist

Cat joined the Forest Service in 1981, and has more than 20 years in planning and management of recreation programs and resources with an emphasis on special areas (wilderness, rivers, caves, National Recreation Areas). She has extensive experience in the development of recreation trails and facilities, program management and operations, partnerships and volunteer agreements, research, interpretation and monitoring. Cat's expertise also includes writing various recreation plans, design narratives, technical reports and large-scale environmental documents. She has a bachelor's degree in natural resources management. Cat joined Independent Resources in 2010.

  • Primary duties include: Writing and developing comprehensive plans, conducting strategic analyses and providing technical support for a broad array of recreation and special area projects at the district, forest, regional and national levels.
[GRAPHIC: Name Tag for Cheri Ziebart]Visual Information Specialist - Graphic Design

Cheri began with the Forest Service in 1975. She has a background in graphic design, cartooning, illustration with various mediums and civil engineering drafting. Her primary skills include complex business and presentation graphics; detailed natural resource illustration and watercolor; cartooning; state of the art PowerPoint presentations and template design; stand-alone display panel design; project implementation from project design to fabrication; web elements design; document and publication layout and design and preparation for GPO printing; 508 disability compliance; quick PowerPoint maps; and graphic recording. Additional skills include mediation and crisis care.

  • Primary duties include: Strategic business graphics, design, illustration and presentation graphics; state of the art PowerPoint slideshows; project implementation following products from design and development to fabrication; resource for web elements design, document and brochure design, publication layout preparation and printing.
  • Fire Qualifications: Cartography, Display Processor for PowerPoint maps.





USDA Forest Service - Independent Resources Enterprise Unit
Last Modified: Monday, 16 December 2013 at 14:18:26 CST