Lisa Barlow is passionate about her job with the USDA Forest Service, where she takes her responsibility of reforestation very seriously. She believes in protecting current resources and improving them so the next generation of forest and nature lovers can enjoy them as she does. In 2007, she began working with the Forest Service as a seasonal employee, marking timber and conducting botany and wildlife surveys. She considers herself lucky that seasonal work afforded her seven years to have the opportunity to get a full-time positon with the agency.
What do you do now at the Forest Service?
I’m currently a forestry technician on the Bradford District of the Allegheny National Forest. The main focus of my job is working on timber stand improvement and reforestation. I’ve been a forestry technician for four-and-a-half years now.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Having a job where I get to go into the field every day and work in nature. I get to experience the blooming flowers in the spring and see the wildlife flourishing every day as a result of my efforts. I’m really lucky to be able to work independently in the field and enjoy the solitude of the forest. One of the really cool things I get to do as part of my job is to fight wildfires on forests out West, conduct prescribed burns and support neighboring forests. Fighting fires is very challenging but extremely rewarding.
Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project.
I’m currently on the spring and summer timber harvest seasons. I work with foresters to help determine which timber stands are ready for timber harvesting and reforestation projects. We take advantage of the winter months to mark timber stand improvement project areas for the contractors. Using the Forest Service Geographic Information System, or GIS, I make maps with updated boundary lines for reforestation contractors to use.
Describe a professional or personal achievement that you are particularly proud of.
I’m very proud of a personal achievement a co-worker and I accomplished. We rode our bicycles across the state of Pennsylvania, starting in Ohio, along scenic Route 6. Our ride was in early October, so we encountered rain and snow the entire way. Luckily, we only rode 50 to 60 miles a day and stayed in local bed and breakfasts each night. My mom supported us by driving ahead of us to secure our rooms and any supplies we needed for the next day. The ride took us seven days and 401 miles.
Why do you think your field is important?
Reforestation is vital to maintaining a forest’s health. We all want the forest to be here for many generations to come. In order to make that happen we have to manage the forest’s age classes, invasive species, wildlife population and overall health. We use planned strategic timber harvesting to manage the age and health of the forest and ensure a diversity of age classes. Once timber stands are harvested, natural regeneration is monitored with routine surveys to ensure growth and species composition. We check for invasive plant and insect species and mitigate their impact as best as we can. These different steps ensure the forest is regenerated sustainably and remains healthy for many years. We also provide many local jobs and employment opportunities through all the timber-related contracts we provide every year. This ensures that our communities work as a team with one goal in mind, the forest’s longevity and health.
What are some of the greatest challenges confronting your field?
The biggest challenges right now are invasive insects and plant species that are causing problems in regards to our reforestation efforts.
What are some of the most promising strategies being used by the Forest Service to address these challenges?
We are fighting back through collaborative efforts, information sharing, research and joint stewardship among all the stakeholders in our area. One great example of collaboration is our Allegheny Forest Health Collaborative, which is comprised of federal, state, local and private forestry organizations that work together to develop joint strategies that we all can use together to fight invasive plants and species.
How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
The work we do is beneficial to everyone and everything they do on the forest. It is public land, and we are here to help everyone enjoy spending time on it. Our job is to do great things for the people, wildlife, plants, trees, waterways and recreation sites. We work hard to ensure that the forest is a place that everyone wants to visit and recreate on every year.