Philomath equestrian honored for local volunteer efforts

Philomath resident Joel Starr has been selected as the U.S. Forest Service’s Region 6 Individual Volunteer of the Year, one of the agency’s highest awards for people that contribute service to public lands.

In 2011 Starr worked on a variety of volunteer projects for the Willamette, Deschutes, Siuslaw and Mt. Hood National Forests. His contributions to public lands in western Oregon span over 10 years. He currently serves as the trail boss for Mid-Valley Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET), and is a member of the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) and Back Country Horseman of Oregon (BCHO).

Forest Service officials say OET Chapter members often comment on the inspirational role that Starr plays through his work ethic and by encouraging new volunteers to get involved.

Starr’s contributions include leading a group of volunteers to deconstruct a rotting bridge on the Little North Fork Trail, rebuilding five horse corrals at Sevenmile Horse Camp, and clearing over 17 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. His handiwork is also evident on the Santiam Wagon Road and countless other trails throughout the Willamette National Forest.

“Joel’s outstanding attitude and diverse skills make him an extremely valuable resource,” said Brad Peterson, Wilderness and Trails Manager for the Detroit and Sweet Home Ranger Districts. “He finds the projects, recruits the volunteers, and gets high quality work done safely.”

Starr also carries a distinguishing title; he is one of a select few volunteers who work with National Forests in Oregon and Washington who can certify other volunteers to use chainsaws and crosscut saws. Saw certifiers must demonstrate proficiency in the use of saws, have a comprehensive understanding of how to work safely in the woods, and be able to provide effective training for others. In 2011 Starr organized and ran the crosscut saw certification portion of the Trail Skills College for the High Cascades Forest Volunteers.

“Volunteers are such an asset to the Forest Service, and we’re pleased that Joel has been recognized at the regional level,” said Cindy Glick, district ranger for the Sweet Home Ranger District.