Grounds Maintenance: Managing the Wild
Various Locations - Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon is defined by its natural wonders. The coastal state's diverse and stunning landscape, which includes Crater Lake and Mt. Hood, provides a home to thousands of creatures—from marine life and birds to elk, cougars and bears. Helping to protect the creatures that inhabit the area is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
The ODFW has roots that date back to 1877, when the first fish hatchery was built on the Clackamas River. Based in Salem, ODFW today oversees hundreds of thousands acres of land, with specific areas dedicated to recreation, conservation and recovery. Recreation oversight is split into two divisions: wildlife, where populations are tracked through license and tag sales; and fish, which manages native Oregon aquatic life, hatcheries and the stocking of different breeds.
"Our purpose has always been to protect and enhance wildlife and habitats for current and future generations," said Ryan Couture, ODFW hatchery coordinator. "If we don't work hard to conserve the land and what lives within it, it'll only be a matter of time before we lose it."
An ODFW employee for almost two decades, Couture manages 12 of the 35 hatcheries operated by the ODFW. His daily responsibilities include the oversight of crews servicing and maintaining the grounds and hatchery fleet; transporting trout and salmon, among other species, to and from the hatcheries; and hauling heavy, awkward-sized oxygen tanks and other materials to different parts of the facility.
Two-thirds of the ODFW staff work in field offices, hatcheries, wildlife areas and other facilities throughout the state. This puts resource managers close to the resources they're managing, and in touch with local hunters, anglers and wildlife viewers. A day's work often includes accessing areas of land that aren't always easy to get to with a full-sized vehicle, such as a pickup truck or van.
For years, Couture, his staff and volunteers relied on a utility vehicle, and when it finally conked out, it left them in need of a new product.
"We realized just how much we depended on the utility vehicle once we were without one," said Couture. "The use of a UTV gave us the ability to move around the land efficiently and haul heavy items."
Wanting to keep productivity levels high and his team safe, Couture began researching new utility vehicles that could do just as much, if not more, than his last. He wanted a true workhorse that would be able to meet the demands of the ODFW team: a durable, comfortable and easy-to-maintain UTV capable of helping his staff work as safely and efficiently as possible.
It was then that the newly introduced Maximum Duty Vehicle (MDV) from Hustler Turf Equipment caught his eye. Designed for heavy-duty applications, it features a patented, labor-saving cargo box that allows users to lift up to 750 pounds from the ground and dump material from any point in its arc of motion.
Couture was sold.
"[It] provides a way for my staff members to effortlessly lift and transport compressed oxygen tanks that weigh 80 to 100 pounds, as well as heavy water pumps," he said.
It also proved to be a time saver, turning a two- or three-person job into a one-person job, freeing up people to focus on other tasks.
"The time-saving aspect is huge for us," Couture said. "Now when we delegate responsibilities, it's a huge advantage that we only have to assign one person for loading materials onto the MDV and transporting them."
Couture and his team are not alone, as the day-to-day tasks for many parks and recreation professionals include lifting heavy and awkward items. From transporting flower pots and trees with root bulbs to plowing snow and hauling sports equipment, it can be challenging to safely and easily move these materials.
"My team really values the MDV," Couture said. "It saves them backbreaking work and is also helping them work more efficiently."
Two-thirds of the ODFW staff work in field offices, hatcheries, wildlife areas and other facilities throughout the state. A day's work often includes accessing areas of land that aren't always easy to get to with a full-sized vehicle, such as a pickup truck or van.
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