Spotlight on Southeast Region Landowner Assistance Program

Chuck Wytko
DNR Southeast Region Landowner Assistance District Manager

The Southeast Region Landowner Assistance Program has undergone some exciting changes in the last few months! For several years the program consisted of only two full time staff (Joe Weeks, Coordinator and Matt Eberlein) providing stewardship, fuels and Firewise project assistance to small landowners in all 15 of the Region’s counties. Although the Region’s Forest Practice Foresters helped out as time allowed, Matt’s departure last December left a large void in the program….but like they say, “when one door closes, another opens.”

That door opened when we received an influx of Forest Service monies for staff and project cost shares. In June I was fortunate enough to be hired as the first Landowner Assistance District Manager the program has ever had, and Joe Weeks and I began hiring staff. It has taken us three months to get fully staffed, but it’s been worth it – we’re up and running and eager to be of service! In addition to myself (charles.wytko@dnr.wa.gov, 509-925-0963), our program consists of:

  • Joe Weeks (joe.weks@dnr.wa.gov, 509-925-0972) – Joe has been the Landowner Assistance Coordinator for the past 12 to 13 years. He’s been the glue that held it all together and has a wealth of knowledge to pass on to all of us new folks.
  • Jeanne Christensen (jeanne.christensen@dnr.wa.gov, 509-925-0974) – Jeanne is our Natural Resources Technician and is our the point person for talking with prospective clients, handling billings and invoices, and all the other tasks that make an office run smoothly.
  • Scott Chambers (scott.chambers@dnr.wa.gov, 509-925-0929 – Scott was hired in July as the Fuels/Stewardship Forester in Kittitas and Yakima counties.
  • Cindi Tonasket (cynthia.tonasket@dnr.wa.gov, 509-379-0932) – Cindi is also new to the program and is the Fuels/Stewardship Forester for Chelan and Douglas counties.
  • Dan Lennon (daniel.lennon@dnr.wa.gov, 509-773-5588) – Dan is the Fuels/Stewardship Forester in east Klickitat County and has been there for just over a year.
  • Jesse Calkins (jesse.calkins@dnr.wa.gov, 509-493-3218 x223) – Our veteran of the program, Jesse works mostly Stewardship in west Klickitat and east Skamania counties and has been helping landowners for over 30 years.
  • Tom Schoenfelder (thomas.schoenfelder@dnr.wa.gov, 509-607-6204) – Service Forester for the Blue Mountains, Tom is also the Forest Practice Forester and the Fire Forester for the same working area, which means he has three supervisors!

So what’s next? While I’m sure there will be some struggles along the way, we’re committed to building the program and making it strong and productive, as well as a fun place to work. The most exciting thing for all of us is that for the first time we’ll be able to provide the services that our region’s small forest landowners need and want.