The Columbia River Gorge is one most magnificent landscapes in the United States, and employees of the U.S. Forest Service’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area are honored to carry out our mission. Our work is to protect the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge while enhancing economic development. We don’t just work here; we live and play here, as your neighbors, friends, customers, and clients.  

As challenging as it was for Forest Service employees and their families, the recent government shutdown — the longest in history — was but one of several recent resilience tests in the Gorge. During the last two years, we’ve hunkered down for Snowmageddon, held the line as our beloved slopes burned, rolled up our sleeves to rebuild facilities and trail systems, and worked with partners to fight challenging fires in the eastern Gorge. We experienced each of these challenges not only as land managers and civil servants, but as members of the greater Gorge community. We know as well as anyone that the Gorge is not a park but a landscape meant to be lived in.   

Service is one of our bedrock values. Imagine how grateful and touched we have been, then, by the outpouring of support during the shutdown. Citizens and businesses offered assistance to help employees make ends meet and care for their families. State agencies chipped in to help protect and remove garbage from heavily-visited recreation sites. Local agencies work to ensure visitors were safe. We recognize that there were also impacts to our partners, volunteers, permittees, and contractors. Dedicated folks came out — unofficially — and served as proverbial “trail angels” and “poop fairies,” picking up trash and pet waste, and minimizing impacts to public lands and facilities.  

On behalf of the Forest Service employees in the Columbia River Gorge, we thank everyone who stepped up to help and support our employees and the national forests during this challenging time.  

Today, we are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. The opportunities and challenges we face transcend boundaries and impact people beyond the jurisdiction of any single agency or organization. We are committed to working across boundaries in shared stewardship with states, partners, and local communities to support each other and accomplish shared objectives. Thanks for everything each of you do to make a difference in this community!

—Lynn Burditt is the Area Manager for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

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