Forests have been part of Bob Hemus’ life literally all his life. In fact, he grew up in Happy Camp, California in the heart of the Klamath National Forest. So it was only natural that at the age of 16, Bob started working for the USDA Forest Service Youth Conservation Core. And, after graduating from high school, he started as a Forest Service temporary employee growing trees. Never tiring of the great outdoors Bob even worked his off days on the Klamath River as a guide for his father’s company, a job he eventually took until accepting a fulltime position with the Forest Service.
After many years working in timber, fire, and other departments, Bob moved to the Forest Service’s recreation program. He continued his career in recreation, eventually becoming a district recreation program manager. Since 2013, has served as river permit manager on the Gold Beach Ranger District of the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest.
Who or what inspired you growing up?
During my high school years, I worked on a Youth Conservation Corp crew during the summer. I had a crew leader named Annie Buma who helped open my eyes to working outdoors and caring for the land. Most importantly, she showed me how to love what I do and have fun doing it, from clearing out creeks to hiking trails doing maintenance.
What do you like to do for fun on your free time?
Most of my free time is spent in my flower garden, where I grow more than 150 different varieties of Dahlias. My wife and I take many bouquets of these very pretty flowers and distribute them throughout our local hospital every week. I also enjoy deep water fishing for albacore tuna off the Gold Beach coast. The water is so deep and blue; it’s a different world out there.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job is spending a day patrolling the Rogue River—after 40 years, I now have the job of my dreams! I see people of all walks of life enjoying the river. They come in paddle boards, kayaks, tour boats, jet skis, rafts, and more. I love talking with people and helping them enjoy nature safely.
How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?
My dad was a school teacher, and he taught me a lot… which was fortunate, because college was too expensive for my family. So much of my education has come from growing up in a national forest where we went to hunt, fish, and play. I started guiding on the Klamath River at a young age. To be a river guide, you have to have people skills. I think that all these experiences have shaped me for what I do now. I don’t think I would have the immense love for rivers and the outdoors I now have if it weren’t for those years growing up in a national forest.
Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project that you're currently working on.
We have a remote administrative cabin called Brushy Bar Guard Station along the Rogue River deep in the wild section. This cabin had been closed for several years and was in dire need of maintenance. But it’s in a key location halfway down the river, so it needed to be reopened. We worked very hard to rebuild our motorized boating program that services the cabin and find volunteers to staff it. The cabin is now staffed, operational, and has been well received by our river and trail users.
Describe a professional or personal achievement that you are particularly proud of.
Last year I was selected River Manager/Ranger of the Year by the River Management Society.
Why do you think your field is important?
With a system called Special Uses, the Forest Service issues permits for outfitting and guiding and special events. On a typical day in my forest, we contact nearly every river user on more than 40 miles of river and advise them of conditions, restrictions, and safety. We have several lodges along the river that are boat, foot, or plane accessible only, and the people who use them rely on our weekly fire prevention patrols to help keep fire out of the canyon. We also work closely with Oregon State Marine deputies to do joint patrols and assist on rescues.
What are some of the greatest challenges confronting your field?
Making enough time for field work and public contacts and keeping up with technology is tough. As I grow older, it’s harder to keep up, but technology still allows me to be more productive.
How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
I want folks to know that as partners in caring for the land, we work all the time to ensure the public we will do the best for our national forests.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?
Join us because you care about the land and because you like to help people. These lands belong to all Americans, come help us care for it!