New forester familiar with small-town life

Oregon Department of Forestry Sweet Home Unit’s new unit forester is a small-town guy with lots of experience in the woods.

“I grew up in a small town in Nevada,” said Ed Keith, 36. He attended Utah State University and earned a degree in forest management in 1996.

He went to work for the ODF in 2000 at Tillamook where he administered timber sales. He transferred to Prineville where he was a stewardship forester, working with and assisting landowners, administering the Forest Protection Act and fighting fires, spending a total of nearly nine years in those jobs.

He has been on the job in Sweet Home for about two weeks.

“It’s a promotional opportunity, kind of a next step in the career, basically,” Keith said.

He worked on the 2006 Rocky Top fire on the Middle Fork of the Santiam near Green Peter Reservoir.

“I was pretty impressed with the support of the landowners here,” he said. That was evident while he worked on that fire.

“It was nice looking forward to coming here,” Keith said.

He has worked in the coast range and central Oregon, he said. He sees this post, in the west foothills, as rounding out his experience in Oregon.

So far, Sweet Home has been great, he said. The community feels natural to him after growing up in a small town and living in small towns since working for ODF, and historically, a large part of the small towns are involved in the forestry sector, something important to him.

In his off time, Keith is still focused on the forests, he said, enjoying fishing, hunting, hiking and skiing.

“What attracted me to it in the first place, you come in and spend a majority of your working hours doing this,” he said. “So you’ve got to do what you have a passion for.’

In addition to spending time in the woods, he enjoys helping landowners, he said. “There are a lot of good folks we work for and provide services to.”

One of the Sweet Home Unit’s main functions is to provide fire protection services to private forest lands, along with U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.

Fighting fires is exciting too, Keith said, and that’s part of what he loves about his job.

As a unit forester, his role is to coordinate all activities at the unit level, including fire protection, working with private landowners and administration.

“I’m looking forward to new challenges,” he said, and he’s enjoying getting to know landowners and the community.