Alumni List

Travis Acuna

Travis Acuna

Forestry Intern (2016)

In the summer of 2016, I was a forestry intern at Great Mountain Forest. The experience I got throughout the summer will be invaluable to me from here on out and for years to come.

I want to thank Jody for being patient with me and teaching me about the forest and the history of northwest Connecticut. I also appreciate all the new experiences and teaching he provided me over the summer, such as driving the Yanmar and John Deere tractors, helping Brandon out with the sawmill, and felling trees. I appreciate gaining the experience at Great Mountain Forest; that alone was worth it. I also liked how Jody was very personal, we weren’t just interns or his employees, but part of the GMF family. The fact that we would talk and get together after work, share stories, jokes, and laugh was great.

As part of my internship, I had the opportunity to ride-along with a Connecticut Conservation Officer; that was an extremely helpful experience because that is the future career that I wish to pursue. Riding along with Officer Norton helped me to understand a lot of the job and duties that go along with being an EnCon officer.

My summer working at Great Mountain Forest was probably the best summer I’ve had and the best job I’ve had so far!

Travis is a 2016 graduate of SUNY ESF with a major in Natural Resources Management.

Travis Acuna
Artisan Goat Cheese Maker, Nettle Meadows Farm

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Bob Alex

Bob Alex

Intern (1983-1993)

Most definitely, Great Mountain Forest shaped me into the person I am today.  I started as a summer intern that fortunately turned into a full time position that spanned some ten years.  I had the privilege to work side by side with Ted Childs, Darrell Russ, Sam Hawley, Jody Bronson, Ernest Smith, Wayne Jenkins, Tam Goggin, Nash Prahdan, Linc and Timmy Foster, and many others.  What a great list of mentors and friends that were all very sharing in their knowledge and time.  Each of my co-workers and Darrell and Ted had a passion for some part(s) of the plant and animal kingdoms.

One day in particular, during one of my first summers there, shaped my life’s destiny.  Ted had a habit of hollering out my name “Robert”, heard high and wide among the sugar maples at Coolwater; all to expedite a speedy conversation or a new job to do, etc. This afternoon he asked me to help him in the “Woods” for which he gathered up a couple of pails, a couple of dogs, and a Model “A” Ford. We zoomed up the gravel road.  He drove to a hidden half acre clearing in the forest that had a couple dozen highbush blueberry plants that he knew were ready for picking.  We spent the better part of the afternoon picking berries, identifying bird calls and even more important, we explored each other’s minds in conversations that traversed a wide range of topics.  While driving back to Coolwater with the dogs following the Model “A”, an idea popped into my head to provide that same experience for others.  Little did I know, that was a pivotal day in my life. Several years later I purchased a parcel of land to make that idea a reality and Evergreen Berry Farm was born. Today I maintain 8 acres of blueberries and 2 acres of raspberries for fifteen thousand or so visitors to pick from each summer. 

GMF was my foundation for starting and operating Evergreen Berry Farm. The hands on skills I needed to become a farmer were acquired by working with foresters, a geologist, weathermen, rock gardeners, a perennial gardener, a fruit and vegetable gardener, and a 10th Mountain Ranger.

Bob Alex
Owner, Evergreen Berry Farm

www.evergreenberryfarm.com

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Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson

Forestry intern (1976)

GMF was my first forestry exposure, thankfully! I worked for Darrell Russ and Ted Childs, who instilled respect for other people and practices in the industry. Now, 41 years in forestry, and I am still working with respectful people and I feel that GMF set me on this correct path to seek like minded people and to keep my integrity when I have been in rough times.

Tom Anderson
Forester, Gutchess Lumber Co. Inc., Cortland NY

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Chuck Arrigoni

Chuck Arrigoni

Forestry intern (1981-1985)

I look back on my time as an intern at GMF with fond memories.  Working there summers while attending school was invaluable.   The opportunity to get hands-on experience in a working forest really helped me to understand the theoretical discussions in the classroom.  Two things unique to the GMF experience were that people had the time to teach and explain things as we did them; the other was the opportunity to sample so many different types of work.  Many of my friends that had summer jobs in the forestry field did one task day after day all summer.  At GMF there was a wide variety of work to be done. One day you might go mark timber with Darrell; the next day could be spent splitting wood. There was a forest nursery, planting or shearing Christmas trees, road construction and maintenance, equipment upkeep, pruning, thinning, etc. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at GMF as an intern and feel the lessons learned there have stayed with me my whole life.

Chuck Arrigoni
Postal Service Worker, Bangor ME

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Louis Bonnet

Louis Bonnet

Intern (2018)

Working on the summer crew at GMF was an amazing experience from beginning to end. The job was a great opportunity to learn and develop my skills and knowledge pertaining to forestry through all kinds of tasks. The internship program implemented a wide variety of jobs which encouraged me to try new things that I would have rarely had the chance to experience anywhere else. Thanks to Jody and everyone involved with the Great Mountain Forest Organization, each day offered relevant work that was both rewarding and enjoyable. By the end of the summer it was very satisfying to look back on everything that we had completed.

As a young college student I really appreciated what this program had to offer because it gave me a chance to experience many different things, allowing me to get an idea of what direction I’d like to pursue within forestry both professionally and academically. Another awesome part of this program was the educational aspect that Jody and Russel offered daily through their wisdom as well as through their efforts to introduce us to multiple connections that exposed the other interns and I to different perspectives and operations relating to forestry. I found this to be extremely beneficial because it added to the wealth of knowledge that this program gave me. I highly recommend this program to anybody that is seeking a unique experience to enhance their understanding and abilities that are relevant to all facets of forestry.

Louis Bonnet
Forestry student at University of Vermont

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Jody Bronson

Jody Bronson

Intern, Forester, Forest Manager (1976-present)

My life at GMF began in 1976 while I was a forestry student at a small college in Maine. Darrell “Putt” Russ was the forester in charge, Sam Hawley was the forest technician and Ted Childs was pruning white pine plantations on a daily basis and driving a 1964 Ford Galaxy 500 known as the “Bull of the Woods” over the woods road.Each morning the five summer crew members met at the forestry office adjacent to Coolwater, the Childs home. Darrell would begin the day with a Garrison Keillor type monologue that would inevitably take us all back to Darrell’s upbringing in Minnesota. At the end of the monologue we were all given our specific tasks for the day which might include grading the road, cleaning culverts, girdling beech trees, splitting cordwood and the dreaded weeding the nursery. I am proud to say that I had Darrell Russ as my mentor.

The crew boss, Sam Hawley, was a woods savvy field forester; he could fix anything and he could break anything. Sam was a tough man, an Army veteran of WWII that served with the 10th Mountain Division. When Sam was in charge we earned our day’s pay.
Times have changed; the summer crew is not as large as it once was and Ted, Darrell and Sam have gone to the woods. These days, I am in charge of the summer crew and now I know what it was like for Darrell and Sam!!

Each year two students are chosen who are enrolled in college; their major concentration must be forestry or environmental science. These students are given tasks each day that may include road maintenance, building maintenance, timber stand improvement, forest inventory, logging and mechanics. Some of these students have never cut down a tree or turned a wrench but at the end of the summer they leave a little more self confident and a lot stronger.

In the summer of 2012, the GMF crew of 2 (and one volunteer) cut 28 MBF of white pine logs, graded forest roads, split wood, stickered lumber, cruised and marked a log job, thinned a young sugar maple stand to create a sugar bush for maple syrup production as part of a USDA EQUIP grant and on rainy days fixed broken equipment.

It has been said at GMF that we have grown as many foresters as we have trees. I don’t believe that is true, but I do know that the trees are much better here because of the young forestry students who have nurtured them.
After my first summer on the GMF forestry crew I was able to read a compass, swing an axe and swat a black fly all at the same time. The student foresters that served on the GMF Summer Crew are a proud bunch, the time we spent working with Putt Russ and Sam Hawley will stay with us our entire lives. With hope and support GMF can continue to carry on the tradition of giving young foresters a chance to experience working in the woods at Great Mountain Forest.

Jody Bronson
jody@greatmountainforest.org

www.greatmountainforest.org

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Eric Brown

Eric Brown

Forestry Intern (2015)

My summer at GMF was a summer I will not soon forget. I gained many hands on skills that will be applicable in future career, such as handling chainsaws and heavy machinery, marking and inventorying timber, and various steps of the wood products creation and use cycle. I feel I am at a distinct advantage to my peers at UMass because of the experience I gained at GMF; my Timber Harvesting class this fall will be all the more interesting because of the timber harvest I was able to partake in this summer.
My favorite moments of working at GMF was when I was able do every step that goes into creating finished lumber: finding and marking a tree, cutting the tree down, skidding it out of the forest, loading it onto the log truck, and milling it on the band saw mill. I enjoyed being part of the ‘full circle’ of forestry and hope to make a career out of it where I can still partake in every step. GMF has given me skills and experience that I can apply to my academic studies and future careers, which is more than I can ask from a summer internship.
Eric graduated from UMASS in 2016 with a degree in Forest Ecology.

Eric Brown
Assistant Forester, City of Worcester, MA, Reservoir Division

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Brandon Coleman

Brandon Coleman

Forestry Intern, Intern Forester (2016 - 2018)

Brandon Coleman is a 2016 graduate of the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in Natural Resources and Sustainable Forest Resources. He began working on the GMF summer crew in May 2016 and then became a full-time intern forester after receiving his Connecticut forester’s license.
As an intern forester, Brandon worked closely with the GMF staff to assist in forest operations, workshops, equipment maintenance, and the production of forest products including milled lumber, firewood, and maple syrup. In his spare time, Brandon enjoyed being outside, particularly doing rock-climbing and photography.
Brandon left GMF in April 2018 to accept a position with the U.S. Forest Service as a member of the Black Mountain Hotshot Crew on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada. In his new position as a member of Black Mountain Hotshot Crew, he will respond to wildland fires and other natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes). Crew members must be team players, highly motivated, self disciplined, hard working and in top physical condition – all of which Brandon is! He will be involved in rigorous fieldwork for extended periods of time. Assignments often require being in remote areas for many days at a time; normally they may exceed 14 continuous days. Repeated shifts of 14-18 hours are normal. The work is primarily performed in forest and desert environments in steep terrain where surfaces may be extremely uneven, rocky, covered with thick vegetation, smoky conditions with a wide variation of adverse circumstances. Hotshots must adjust and cope with exposure to weather elements, dust and smoke, poor bivouac and eating situations under an unpredictable set of circumstances.
After meeting the Connecticut Wildfire Crew during a training session at the Yale Forestry Camp at GMF, Brandon was intrigued, and began to train with the group.
The board and staff of GMF are very proud of Brandon for qualifying for and accepting this position!

Brandon Coleman
Forester, Great Mountain Forest

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Charles Gill

Charles Gill

Intern (2010-2013)

Great Mountain Forest has been an ever-present entity in my life. I have been lucky enough to have grown up on this land and even luckier to have had the opportunity to participate in its management over the years. From the first woodpile I stacked that, according to Jody, “looked like a box of broken matches,” to the pile of logs turned to lumber that built the new sugarhouse, I have written my own signature on this land.
In the summer of 2010, I participated in this internship under the guidance of Jody Bronson, the head forester, and was able to fully take part in my family’s heritage. As a summer intern I was expected to immerse myself fully in the day-to-day workings of a managed forest. This meant that on an average day I might take the tractor out to grade a piece of road that had been washed out in the last rain storm; take the chainsaw and a pair of loppers to clear a section of trail; eat my lunch under the shade of a large oak tree and swap stories about friends and family mishaps and adventures; find, follow, and mark a boundary line using a map and compass; and finally sweep up the shop, sharpen the chainsaw, and get ready for the next busy day. Jody was always fair and balanced in the delegation of work and he made sure that we knew what we were doing before he left it to us. He is also extraordinarily forgiving of mistakes as long as they lead towards learning.
I graduated from Sterling College in 2013 with a self-designed major in Integrated Land Management. My Senior Applied Research Project was titled Invasive Species Control: Using goats to control the growth and spread of invasive plants. I have been working at High Mowing Organic Seeds since then.

Charles Gill
Production Crew Member, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Wolcott VT

http://www.highmowingseeds.com/

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Dave Giuliani

Dave Giuliani

Forestry intern (2003)

My first job after completing my undergraduate studies was as an intern with Great Mountain Forest.  I had previous experience with demanding, physical labor, year-round in the outdoors, but nothing quite like this opportunity.  No job before or since has so completely incorporated education, fulfilling duties, community outreach, and great co-workers all in an amazing work environment.  One of the most important things I learned was the essential need for hands-on experience to truly understand the art and science of silviculture.  From GMF, I pursued a number of other jobs in the forestry, logging, and tree care field before attending the University of Vermont Graduate School for forestry.
I value my time at GMF and the bonds I developed immeasurably.

Dave Giuliani
Building Analyst (Energy Auditor) and Consulting Forester, Jericho VT

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Wesley Gomez

Wesley Gomez

Forestry intern (2011 - 2016)

The two summers I have spent as an intern have really changed my life. I entered Great Mountain as a freshman in college studying environmental science and after my first summer there, I knew I was in the wrong major. I then changed to a Forestry Operations major and could not be happier with my decision. Great Mountain has truly shown me what I want to do with my life.
Wes continued working at GMF as an assistant forester until 2016.

Wesley Gomez
Grounds Maintenance, Berkshire School

http://www.greatmountainforest.org/

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Dwayne Hess

Dwayne Hess

Forestry intern (1986)

When I reflect on my 1986 summer internship at Great Mountain Forest, I cannot help but to recall one of the most memorable summers of my life with a smile. The staff at GMF provided me a truly enjoyable and professionally rewarding experience that cannot be replaced. I may not have known at the time the absolute value of that experience, but the lessons provided, the operational skills practiced and learned and the mentorship offered that summer have provided me with on-going, life-long benefits to this day.
The diversity of activities GMF offers ranging from Christmas tree pruning to mountain road maintenance to sawmill operations and overall forest stewardship functions provided me a well rounded experience not easily duplicated by any other internship opportunity. I am grateful for this experience and know that it was invaluable to the growth of my professional career.

Dwayne Hess
Business Manager, Vegetation Management Services Deer Repellent Services,Wyomissing, PA

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Danny Hoskins

Danny Hoskins

Forestry Intern (2018)

Working at Great Mountain Forest for the summer internship program was a great opportunity I received. A huge thank you goes to those who made this a reality because without them none of this would have been possible. This includes the very generous donors and the longtime forester, Jody Bronson, who mentored me and dedicated his time to make sure us three interns had a worthwhile experience.
Over my thirteen week internship up in Norfolk/ Falls Village I acquired many new skills and was able to fine tune some old ones. I can’t think of any other job where so many aspects of forestry get touched upon. We did everything from tree marking and boundary work to road grading and trail maintenance. In addition to that, we practiced doing some logging and even got to run an old cable skidder, one of my personal favorite parts of the summer. These were just some of the many different things we got to experience while at GMF.
At the beginning of the summer Jody asked us what things we would definitely enjoy doing that we have previously tried, and what new skills we wanted to learn. Throughout the summer he always kept our responses in mind and made sure to include these various aspects of forestry into our summer.
Overall it was a great experience to work for Great Mountain Forest. I am thankful that I was given the chance to work here, and definitely found it worthwhile towards furthering my career. I would like to give one last thank you to Jody for teaching us so much, and a thank you to the donors who made this learning experience possible.

Danny Hoskins
Forestry Student, University of Maine

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Lukas Hyder

Lukas Hyder

Intern, Forester (1992-2000)

I was asked to write a paragraph about my experience at Great Mountain Forest. I had some trouble trying to boil down my time in Norfolk and all that I learned into a short space. I started on the summer crew at Great Mountain Forest in 1992. I was fresh out of forestry school as I had just graduated from UMASS. My summer job morphed into eight years and I have tales that could fill a book. My experience over that first summer, and subsequent seasons, largely influenced my life as a forester. I got hands-on experience as a logger, sawmill operator, equipment operator, Christmas tree shearer/planter/harvester, firewood splitter, maple syrup maker, mechanic, woodworker, road grader, and the list goes on. I never knew what the day would bring; one day I was bush hogging a field, and ended up burying a horse with the tractor bucket. I think all those activities I took part in made me a better forester. Being a part of the whole process, from planning a harvest, to marking a tree, to cutting it down, skidding it to the landing, trucking the logs, to milling lumber out of it, splitting firewood out of it (either on the 4’ splitter or wood processor) was part of an education one cannot receive from any school. The beauty of working at GMF as a green seasonal person was that nothing was held back from us, we learned how to dig a ditch, run a chainsaw, operate equipment, etc and that is always the best way to learn. I made plenty of mistakes, and because of that, have plenty of stories to tell. After I was hired at my current job (Assistant Superintendent/Forester for White Memorial Foundation) I was told that the decision to hire me was partially based on what I had done and learned at GMF. A lot of the applicants had school training, but lacked more of the broad based practical experiences I had received. White Memorial is similar in part to GMF as to its diversity. There is lots of property, including forests and fields, buildings, equipment, roads and trails, to maintain and keep up. The practical, multi-faceted experience I had, including trouble shooting, problem solving and most importantly field expedience, translate well to my current job. A big part of the experience for me was the people I worked with and for. The crew got along well together, and it was more like a family than your usual work relations. Many times the end of the work day did not mean the end of your time with the employees/employers. I consider myself lucky to have been a member of the extended GMF family.

Lukas Hyder
Assistant Superintendant/Forester, White Memorial Foundation

http://www.whitememorialcc.org/

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Matt Kasson

Matt Kasson

Forestry Intern (2000-2001)

I began working as an intern at the Great Mountain Forest in the summer of 2000, having recently graduated from Paul Smith’s College with an Associates of Applied Science in Forestry. Prior to accepting the job, I had practically no work experience in the forestry field. I was excited to learn and even more eager to apply the education I had worked so hard to obtain.
After my second summer at GMF, I had been accepted at the University of Maine, Orono to pursue my B.S. in Forest Ecosystem Science. Although excited to take that next step, it was hard not to feel some sense of loss leaving GMF. Even though my degree had taught me well, it was at GMF where I realized what I was meant to do and that with hard work, I could achieve anything I set my mind to. There is a quote that says “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” In this sense I spent 15 months catching bricks that Jody refused to stop throwing my way. He taught me how to build, how to stack, and gave me the knowledge, which served as the ‘mortar’ for a foundation that would inevitably guarantee me the success I have found since that time.
Since leaving GMF, I spent 9 years pursuing my ultimate goal of completing my PhD. I am the product of this exceptional summer internship and I know that with continued support, this program can provide life-changing experiences that mold the leaders of tomorrow just as it has done for me

Matt Kasson
Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, West Virginia University

http://www.plantandsoil.wvu.edu/faculty_staff/matthew-kasson

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Adam Milenkowic

Adam Milenkowic

Forestry Intern (2018)

Throughout a great majority of my life I have called myself a student. In these next few months as I finish up my last semester in college I will be transitioning from student to professional, a process that because of my knowledge and experience can take me in any one of many directions. Recently I have found that more and more I think of myself as a no longer a student but a forester, something I believe my time at Great mountain Forest is largely responsible for. I believe that the Great Mountain Forest internship will prove to be a pivotal experience in my professional career as a forester and is deserving of elaboration. The Great Mountain Forest internship created an environment for me to exercise and explore my field and develop important skills that increase my applicability for jobs across the United States. The internship offered a diversity of tasks that always kept me engaged and interested. Many other positions I looked at were very one dimensional and overworked a particular skill. In talking with a few other students at school since I have come back, several of them spent the summer on one task, be it boundary work or cruising. Being a part of many processes from cruising to marking to cutting to making products made the summer I had much more enjoyable and rewarding by comparison. The fact that I was able to work on such a variety of tasks meant that I was able further understand the areas forestry that I really excel at. In retrospect I cannot think of any improvements to the program that would have had positive impacts of any significance. The GMF internship provided me with something truly valuable that I will come to appreciate many years in the future. This is a program that I hope will be available to students of many programs for many years into the future. To all of those involved in the program I would like to extend my thanks for keeping the program running and benefiting so many over the years.

Adam Milenkowic
Forestry Student, Paul Smith's College

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Brian Munson

Brian Munson

Forestry intern, forest technician (1979-1982)

The classes I took at school all seemed to have deeper meaning when I could see the intricacies of the working forest, which transformed classroom and laboratory into a summer job. My interest in school piqued following each summer spent cutting cordwood, pruning Christmas trees, assisting with ecological research studies, tree to board operation from felling to the old sawmill and planer operation, bridge reconstruction and camp rebuilding. A benefit I did not expect, was the intense “sense of place” that I gained by working with a crew that shared their knowledge of the local history and past land management practices that made the forest we were within. The longest lasting and supportive friends I have are from this point in my life. One of those friends actually made me aware of an opportunity for a permanent job/career in close proximity to the forest I have so deeply come to appreciate. Managing the adjacent water company lands, wells, reservoirs and vastly spread small water systems of Northwest CT has kept me in close communication with the GMF staff over the years.
Brian Munson, Manager
Northern Systems Operations Aquarion Water Company of CT (retired 2015)
GMF intern 1979-81, staff 1981-82

Brian Munson
Manager, Northern Systems Operations Aquarion Water Company of CT (retired)

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Collin Oliver

Collin Oliver

Forestry Intern (2015)

My summer as an intern at Great Mountain Forest helped me gain a grasp on the many different facets of forestry. I started the summer with minimal chainsaw knowledge and left with not only operating experience but also with a greater appreciation of the people who work with and handle chainsaws for a living. I am incredibly grateful to have experienced the completed cycle of harvesting timber. From learning proper felling techniques, to skidding my own tree to a landing, and finally processing logs through the sawmill, I was able to get a thorough and first-hand understanding of the logistics involved with harvesting. The Conservation Stewardship Practice grant helped provide me with invaluable experience organizing, gathering, and processing data for a professional USDA funded project. Teaching children and students about forestry at GMF has inspired me to pursue a field involved with education as well as public interaction.

In contrast to the practical and tangible skills I acquired during my summer at Great Mountain Forest, I must reflect on the greater appreciation I now have for working forests. Working forests are very unique and help exemplify environmentally-conscious decision making in all aspects from recreation to public perception and from wildlife to silviculture. Great Mountain Forest is a necessary medium between modern forestry and the general public. Without working forests to display and explain the nuances of forest management misconceptions can form quickly.

A summer spent with the devoted and passionate staff of Great Mountain Forest encouraged me to take pride in my work every day. Working as an intern in an environment that encourages testing each other and building knowledge helped encourage me to be curious and ask questions. The support and enthusiasm of Jody helped keep us all in high spirits even on the more grueling days, while Hans helped explain the land-use history of GMF. Also, without Jean, Russel, and the Board of Trustees this momentous opportunity would not have been possible. I couldn’t have asked for a more thorough and fulfilling summer spent living and working at the beautiful Great Mountain Forest.

Collin graduated from UMass in 2016 with a degree in Forest Ecology and Conservation.

Collin Oliver
Forester, New England Forestry Consultants, Inc.

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Tyler Reichert

Tyler Reichert

Forestry intern (1992-1994)

I interned at the Great Mountain Forest for the summers of 1992, 1993, and 1994, while earning my Forest Management degree. The total hands on experience of Great Mountain Forest added an immeasurable skill set to my forest management education. The Great Mountain intern program puts real forest management challenges before the student with the real tools, the real heavy equipment, and the real analysis protocols to implement real solutions. Without that hands-on exposure to the tools and equipment of the industry, the book knowledge of college leaves the student far short of a real forest management education. The Great Mountain Forest experience brings the forestry student into the forest and brings the theoretical teaching
of a degree to life.

Tyler Reichert
Arborist, Bartlett Tree Experts, MA

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Robbie Russ

Robbie Russ

Forestry intern (1978)

The Great Mountain Forest has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a small child, our backyard bordered a GMF stand of red pine. My siblings and I would often play there, making forts and exploring the paths through the many pruned-off branches. I also remember riding with my Dad (Darrell Russ) in his truck over the gravel woods roads as he would tell funny stories or sing songs from the 1930s and 40s. When I was college age I worked on the forest summer crew performing such tasks as shearing Christmas trees, mowing between the Christmas tree rows, splitting cord wood, and working in the saw mill.

I have lived in North Carolina since 1980 and am currently working with a County environmental department on air pollution issues. I credit my experiences at GMF as having a major influence in my decision to pursue a career doing environmental work.

When I was a kid growing up in and around the Great Mountain Forest, I considered that type of environment to be normal. Now, of course, I realize just how special GMF really is. In my current suburban location, any small patch of remaining woodland is likely to be cut down and paved the next time I drive by. It is nice to know that there is at least one beautiful woodland in northwest Connecticut that I can count on to remain forested!

Robbie Russ
Senior Environmental Specialist, Forsyth County (NC) Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection

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Russell Russ

Russell Russ

Forestry intern, Forester (1984-1987, 2001 - present)

My GMF summer crew experience took place during the summers of 1984 through part of 1987, but it actually began much earlier and lasted much longer.
As a child, I spent many hours in and around GMF both on my own and with my father, Darrell, either in the woods hunting or hiking or in his truck driving on the woods roads. I tagged along during the maple syrup season and spent many hours in the old sap houses. Too small to be a good sap collector, I would ride on the back of the sap truck or in the cab with Sam Hawley who always drove. There were many, many times when I’d watch as Ted Childs or my father took the weather readings. I knew GMF
was important, but didn’t really know why.
I was brought up on the old stories of GMF, the land and the people that had lived and worked there.
My interest and desire to go into the forestry profession began at and early age and was most certainly fueled by being around GMF.
While attending college I worked on the GMF summer crew. My father oversaw the work, but much of my
time was spent working under the direction of Sam Hawley and Jody Bronson. Having my father as my work boss took a little getting used to, but it never seemed to bother either one of us. My older brother, Rob, had also worked at GMF for a summer or two so it was nothing new to my father to have a son on the crew. Working with Sam was an experience. You definitely wanted to be on his good side, which was no easy task being the boss’s son. The work was hard, but well worth the effort.
With a desire to gain work experience in forestry and my already solidified belief in the unique importance of the place it made perfect sense to work on the summer crew. I gained valuable experience and was able to do it in my own backyard. Being on the summer crew gave me the hands-on
experience that went hand in hand with my forestry school education. I began to understand many of the reasons why GMF is so special.
My career veered away from forestry and GMF from 1987 to 2001, but as fate would have it, my path lead me back in 2001 when after a career change I was once again looking to gain experience in the world of forestry. It was as if I was a summer intern all over again, but this time at age 37. I was very fortunate to be allowed this opportunity and even more fortunate to have been able to become part of the full-time staff here at the forest and assist in bringing GMF into its second century.
My role now is part Darrell, part Sam and part Jody. I can share my experience with our new summer interns (as we call them now) and help them in much the same way that I was helped. GMF had been part of my life since early on and I have been able to make it part of my life now. I personally take great pride in the fact that I can follow in the footsteps of my predecessors to carry on the good work they had done here for so many years at what I now know is a unique and very important place. As a GMF staff forester I focus on the present and the future, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of the ones that came before me. Being able to do this with Jody makes it even better.

Russell Russ
Forester, Great Mountain Forest

www.greatmountainforest.org

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Brian Saccardi

Brian Saccardi

Forestry Intern (2013 - 2015)

Brian Saccardi is a 2013 graduate of Housatonic Valley Regional High School (HVRHS). He was a member of HVRHS’s Envirothon team, which placed in the top 10 in North America. Brian placed first in the state of Connecticut in the forestry competition. He was also Vice President of HVRHS’s Future Farmers of America, part of the national FFA organization.
Brian attended the University of New Hampshire for his freshman year in 2013-14. He transferred to the University of Connecticut for the 2014-15 school year as a Natural Resources major with a concentration in wildlife and fisheries. He graduated from UConn in 2017. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Natural Resources Soil and Water Resource Management at the University of New Hampshire.
Brian volunteered part time at Great Mountain Forest during high school and worked as full time summer staff in 2014 and 2015.

Brian Saccardi
Brian is currently pursuing his master's degree at UNH in Natural Resources Soil & Water Resource Management.

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Jay Webb

Jay Webb

Forestry intern (1988)

In a word, Great Mountain Forest, for me, was empowering.
July 7, 1988 Journal Entry:
I backed into the welding garage today with the log truck and broke a fixture off the boom, plus pushed the garage in 4-5”. Felt bad about costing my employer. I marked huge red oaks and eastern hemlock with Darrel Russ today out by Meekertown road.
When asked to tell of my time at Great Mountain Forest, I went back to a journal I kept while I was there and I began to reminisce. It brought me back to an amazing summer in 1988, surrounded by the beautiful land and the intriguing people. There are so many stories I could tell. I don’t know how the honor of being one of four forest techs that summer came to me, for I’m sure many applied. What I do know is that I arrived as a stranger from NY; a kid with no experience and in almost no time at all I felt like family and was respected for my hard work.

Jay Webb
Certified Arborist and Owner/President of Ascending Landscapes Bend, Oregon

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Jess Wikle

Jess Wikle

Forester's Assistant (2012)

I had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects during my time at GMF. These included creating an interpretive trail, organizing educational programs, helping to carry out research projects in the forest, marking a timber sale, creating wildlife habitat, as well as a wide variety of maintenance projects around the forest and shop. The best part of these projects was the support from Jody and Russell. I was able to take control and ownership of these projects while still having a support network and the ability to ask any question and know that I would get a helpful answer. This support gave me confidence in my skills to take forward into my next job.

I was very lucky to work for people who not only care greatly about the forest, but also about the future of the interns. Jody is very invested in making sure that the summer crew not only has a great learning experience, but also can use connections and skills from the job to get out into the real world and find their way. When I first met with him about the summer position, I had been out of college for two years and struggling to find a job in the field. He told me that by the end of my experience at Great Mountain, I would be connected with enough people to find a full time job, and sure enough, before my time there was up, I was offered a job with Connwood Foresters. Although I was happy to find a job, it was hard to leave Great Mountain because it is such a wonderful place to be.

Update: After working at Connwood, Jess applied and was accepted at Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She received her master’s degree from Yale F&ES in May 2018.

Jess Wikle
Student at Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

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