Micah Schmidt recently got hired as a Regional Fire Specialist, based in the Union county Extension office. Micah graduated from the College of Forestry in March 2023 with a Master of Science in Sustainable Forest Management with a focus in Fire, Silviculture, and Forest Health.
Does one class, teacher or experience really stand out?
One class that really stands out for me was the Prescribed Fire Practicum taught by John Punches, Daniel Leavell, John Rizza, and Jacob Putney. The course had a two-week field session in La Grande and is one of the reasons that I moved here after I graduated. All of those professors were great to learn from, but I will single out John Punches as particularly important in my education. I now work in the same office as him. He is really a stand-out guy that I know will be an excellent resource during my career with Extension. I would also mention Dave Shaw, James Johnston, Andrew Merschel, Eric Forsman, and Jimmy Swingle as people who I learned a ton from during my time at OSU.
How did COF prepare you for your career?
COF definitely helped me build skills to be successful in my career, but I feel like my time working with Marty Main at his consulting forestry company Small Woodland Services, Inc. in southwest Oregon really prepared me the most. Marty was a great mentor to me and gave me an excellent education in forestry for several years before I went on to get my Master’s degree. That experience showed me how beneficial having an experienced mentor to work with day in and day out is for someone trying to break into a natural resources field. I’m hoping I can engage with young people hoping to get into this line of work so that I can potentially have that impact on others.
What are your main duties as a Regional Fire Specialist?
I’m still getting settled into my position and figuring that out myself. I think the most important part of my job is assessing the fire-related needs of the communities in the region I work in and figuring out how to best respond in an effective manner. I’m hoping to utilize my technical skills to assist local partners and stakeholders with their projects, communicate fire science to communities in my region in an accessible way, and help to build and maintain cross-boundary land management partnerships since we all can acknowledge that wildfire does not recognize property boundaries. I’m particularly looking forward to returning good fire on the land through prescribed burning. There’s a ton of interest in that in northeast Oregon, and I hope to help promote it as much as possible. But depending on the needs of the region, my job could look very different year-to-year.
What is your favorite tree?
Until I moved to northeast Oregon, my favorite tree was sugar pine. I still have a great admiration for that tree, but western larch is quickly looking to unseat it as my favorite since sugar pine doesn’t occur in my region. Honorable mentions would include Pacific yew and California black oak.
Anything else you would like to share?
I just feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to fill this position. I interacted with my predecessor, John Rizza, and admired the way he went about things in this role. I’m also lucky to work in the Union County Extension office which is full of great people. I have a lot of support from the northeast Oregon extension foresters and an awesome fire team to work with and learn from. I’ll also give a shout-out to my supervisor EJ Davis, who has been nothing short of fantastic in how she has welcomed me into this position.