SYCAN MARSH - Sawdust flies as Justice Blacksun's chainsaw slices through a young lodgepole pine. He fells the tree and quickly moves on to another.
Two years ago, he didn't know a thing about running a chainsaw, and now he directs younger crew members, showing them how to sharpen blades and fix motors.
Blacksun is a member of the Klamath Tribes' Forest Warriors, a crew that works on restoration projects around the region. Earlier this month, the crew was clearing invasive trees from the Sycan Marsh, north of Bly.
The Forest Warriors program was established in 2010 to create a tribal workforce for restoration and forest management projects. It provides job training and employment in a community where both are hard to come by.
"It's awesome," Blacksun said, taking a break from his work as sweat steamed from his skin. "If it weren't for the Tribes opening that door for me, I don't know where I'd be working."
Blacksun had spent six months looking for work before joining the Forest Warriors. A steady paycheck is critical for him now. His 9-month-old son, River, in Klamath Falls depends on it, he said.
In Chiloquin, working with the Forest Warriors comes with a sense of pride, said Dan Galecki, training officer with the crew. He has a stack of resumes from tribal members looking to join.
"People want to work on this particular crew," he said.
The crew works on a contractual basis, performing restoration work for private landowners, public agencies and environmental groups. The project at the Sycan Marsh is a partnership between the Forest Warriors; the Nature Conservancy, which manages a 30,000-acre preserve there; and Lomakatsi Restoration Project, an Ashland nonprofit that develops and oversees restoration projects.
"This is food on the table, employment in a tough economy," said Marko Bey, director of Lomakatsi.
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