Operations—As I See Them
By Rick D. Cables,
Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region
Forest Service, Golden, Colorado
In November 2005, the Rocky Mountain Region held its first
Sustainability Summit at Colorado State
University in Fort
Collins, Colorado. I was fortunate to not only attend, but to
also address summit participants. The
energy in the room on that cool November day was almost visible. The participants were there because of their passion
for changing the way we conduct our day-to-day operations to reduce our overall
“ecological footprint.” They were there because they believed we could
Our ecological footprint represents the fuel we use, the
waste we generate, and the energy we consume to support our daily work
activities—in the field and in the office.
By reducing our footprint, we operate more sustainably
and do our part to conserve the precious natural resources that we are charged
Our commitment to sustainability must transcend the lands we
manage to our everyday consciousness.
We need to implant sustainable conservation deeply into our culture as
an agency – and we don’t need more policies or more rules to do it effectively. What I think we need is to expand our ethic
of conservation to touch everything we do, and then take more initiative to
tell people what we’re doing and why it’s working.
Here are just a few examples of specific activities in which
we can engage:
on managing fleet miles driven more effectively.
alternative fuels to run our vehicles and heat our buildings.
alternative materials to clean our tools and our workplaces.
automated systems to use less water and electricity in our facilities.
One example of such innovation is the new fuel cell system
that we installed at the Big Goose Ranger Station on the Bighorn
National Forest in Wyoming. Two solid oxide fuel cells run on propane to
provide power and heat to several buildings and their water systems. This test project promises to provide energy
to the station at less cost and with less pollution.
The Rocky Mountain Region has also purchased Renewable
Energy Certificates to help offset costs for using wood from forest thinnings in a co-firing process with coal to generate
power. By encouraging a market for using
biomass as an energy source, the Forest Service creates a win-win situation for
the public lands and surrounding communities.
Purchasing and driving hybrid vehicles are another example
of how we are reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. As of October
1, 2005, the Rocky Mountain Region had 25 alternative fuel vehicles
in its fleet. Additionally, in 2006, we
ordered 48 alternative-fuel vehicles, which represent 27 percent of the entire
new vehicle order.
We have so many opportunities to reduce our footprint. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it
also reduces our bottom line–-something from which we all benefit. I am very proud of the energetic, passionate
and committed employees in the Rocky Mountain Region and welcome the
opportunity to help pave the way for our agency to improve its sustainable
Rick Cables became
Regional Forester of the Rocky Mountain Region in January 2001. As Regional Forester, he is responsible for
managing more than 22 million acres on 17 National Forests and seven National
Grasslands, and for facilitating cooperative efforts with state and private
landowners in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
was born in Pueblo, Colorado. He
was graduated from Northern Arizona University School of Forestry in 1976, and began his forestry
career on the Kaibab National Forest in Northern
Arizona. After serving on several National Forests in New Mexico and Arizona, he became District Ranger on the Apache
and Sitgreaves National
Forests. He then served two years in the Washington Office before his selection to attend, from
1989 to1990, the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.