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USDA Forest Service Planning Engineer Yiqiang (Kevin) Gu
Kathryn Dawson, Office of Communications and Community Engagement, USDA Forest Service, Portland
Published: 24 October 2019

Working for the USDA Forest Service in Portland’s Regional Office, Planning Engineer and public servant extraordinaire Yiqiang Gu knows a thing or two about improving lives. Coming from Changchun, a city of four million people in northeast China, Yiqiang, or “Kevin” as he’s known by his friends, didn’t always appreciate and enjoy spending time outdoors. But he’s grown to have a change of heart, and as someone who covers the areas of Alaska, Washington and Oregon he’s seen enough amazing scenery to want to spread the good word to others. 

“Growing up in China, I’d never visited a forest,” Kevin admitted. “People worked outdoors rather than going out to recreate and enjoy nature, and it was seen more as a requirement just to survive.  Farmers would travel mountain roads to get to nearby markets to sell produce and to make a living, but over time, as more and more people moved into the cities, our lives began to improve, and our views began to change.” 

Motivated by the Forest Service mission, Kevin has spent the last nine years working with the Agency, finding ways to implement change and to make the world a better place, and his passion to do good for the greatest number of people has really inspired him to work to make a difference. 

STEM education creates opportunites

“I’ve always had a stronger interest in mathematics”, Kevin revealed, “and the STEM fields, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, are very important, both inside and outside of our work.  They create new opportunities for us to handle work differently, they make us more efficient and they help us find new and better ways to solve existing problems,” he explained.

“Each person and their culture is unique,” he continued, “and when it comes to managing National Forest lands people have different needs when utilizing the land. Some might need it to recreate, some need it to research or study, and others may need it just for sustenance and to survive. So when I study and analyze different transportation projects, those are just some of the things that keep my job exciting.”

There aren’t many jobs that can change and give you new challenges every day, but thanks to people like Kevin we’ve been able to take advantage of different perspectives as we start looking at things from different angles - like the concept of shared land stewardship.

“I believe every action has a consequence,” Kevin said. “Most consequences, regardless of good or bad, don’t just impact the individual or the entity that took the action; there’s usually a ripple effect,” he explained.

“For example, if we were doing restoration activities on a National Forest that involved harvesting timber, and a storm came and washed out the road, it doesn’t just affect my job or Forest Service operations. It can create a chain effect, where the logging company can’t get the wood out, the sawmill can’t deliver products to market and the employees and communities suffer from the overall loss of revenue and much needed money. So if what we do affects others,” he continued, “then it only makes sense that we join forces to make sure we’re all looking out for each other.”

It's more than just a job

Concepts like shared land stewardship, embracing different cultures and perspectives and making the world a better place both for the greatest number and the greatest good are just a few of the things that make the Forest Service a great place to work, but for people like Kevin it’s more than just a job.

“Having a career that can contribute to improving other people’s lives and that can help to shape our future can be very fulfilling,” Kevin said. “There are project opportunities in every sub-discipline of civil engineering, and the project variety definitely keeps the job interesting. With 154 National Forests and 20 National Grasslands across the country there are so many desirable and unique places to work and live, so if you like working with passionate people and any of that sounds interesting to you, then you should definitely consider trying out for the Forest Service, because I get to design and build things, and I really enjoy what I do.”

For more information about natural resource careers and working for the USDA Forest Service, please visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/jobs.

For information about The Skanner Foundation scholarship in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, view details and application on this page. Deadline to apply is October 31, 2019.

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