The morning heat increases the scent of fir rising in puffs behind the boots of Kylie Siddoway.

She leads three other teenagers into the forest, each picking their way slowly across slash left from logging.

“It smells like our Christmas tree — two weeks past Christmas,” Siddoway says with a smile.

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Sarah Plummer, holding a compass, directs Sam McCauley to the next tree in a monitoring plot located within the East Face Project on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

They pause at a location dictated by the GPS and get to work documenting different aspects of this forest that is part of the Wallowa Whitman’s East Face Project.

Their work is part of a summer-long internship with the Baker Resources Coalition. About 10 teenagers applied for a position. After the hiring process, which included an interview, the Coalition hired Siddoway, Sam McCauley, and Sarah Plummer.

“I thought it sounded interesting, a fun summer,” Plummer said.

The Coalition formed in early 2019 to provide paid internships for local students interested in natural resources.

Plummer and McCauley are field interns paid by project revenues. Siddoway, an assistant program manager, helps plan projects and works with Plummer and McCauley. Her pay comes from a Ford Family Foundation grant. They are employed by the Powder Basin Watershed Council.

“I thought it would be a really good way to see the natural resources side, since I’m from an agricultural background,” Siddoway said.

This summer’s work began June 15 at the Gyllenberg ranch south of Baker City where the interns spent two weeks restoring stream flow and the stream banks damaged in the Cornet-Windy Ridge wildfire in August 2015. Their work included building a pond and installing fence.

That assignment was one of McCauley’s favorites from the summer.

“For the variety of work we did,” he said. “I really like working outdoors.”

Due to restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s students at Summer Academy were unable to visit Anthony Lakes. In response, the interns created a video that was shared with the youngsters. They also created terrariums that brought a bit of nature — including frogs — to the classrooms.

Late June found the interns on the ranch of Maurizio Valerio to help install wildlife fencing. The next week brought them back to town to help map the veterans section of Mount Hope Cemetery.

Their work on the East Face monitoring plots began the week of July 13-17. The project covers 45,000 acres and includes work that will move fire to natural breaks, such as roads or clearings. The work includes logging, thinning, and prescribed fires.

Within the project are designated units, which each include monitoring plots.

They finished 15 plots in July, and hope to add 15 more this week.

On Monday, the three interns, plus Silas Carter as extra help, followed Lucas Glick, a silviculturist for the Wallowa-Whitman’s La Grande Ranger District, about 6 miles north of the Anthony Lakes Highway.

At each plot, the interns mark the center, then measure 37.2 feet out in each cardinal direction — north, south, east and west. Within that circle they measure trees, count seedlings and saplings, take a core sample of the center tree, and measure the heights of three trees of different species.

Siddoway said this provides baseline data that can be referenced in the future for the changes.

“In three to five years they come and compare it,” she said.

Dr. Kerry Kemp of the Nature Conservancy designed the monitoring protocol and taught the system to the interns.

“She’s been an incredible mentor,” said Steve Edwards, Baker Resources Coalition program manager.

This week the interns were joined by Glick, who helped identify trees and answered any questions. The chosen plots are described as a “cool moist” environment.

“These guys are really helping us look at these stands,” Glick said.

The group also placed several trail cameras and hope to catch images of pine marten or other wildlife.

Other projects this summer included creating an interpretive brochure for the Hoffer Lakes trail at Anthony Lakes, and learning about hardwood management on Edwards’ property.

Their final week will be spent reflecting on the summer and strategic planning for the program.

Edwards said the Coalition would like to expand the summer program to offer more internships, but must first add to the number of projects.

For more information about the Baker Resources Coalition, visit the website www.bakerresources.com

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