It seems like no two days are ever alike for Rodger H. Voss, who leads Fort Drum’s forestry program, a fact he said keeps him motivated.
His primary work is overseeing the post’s forests, which cover about 60,000 of its 107,000 acres, and the logging efforts that generate more than $100,000 for the post annually.
Beyond that, he is also responsible for some newer programs that are responsible for diverting more than 1,000 tons of post waste products annually from ending up in landfills, improving habitats on post land and coordinating with hunters from several neighboring states that come to hunt on the post’s lands.
“This is one of the best forestry jobs I can imagine,” he said.
Mr. Voss, 38, said he found himself interested in the forestry field thanks to his upbringing, which featured a heavy amount of hunting and fishing.
“I was always outside,” he said.
Initially studying physical therapy in college, Mr. Voss discovered he wasn’t happy, and that he needed to turn over a new leaf.
“I wanted to do something I loved, not something that would make me a lot of money,” he said. “I’m glad I went the direction I did.”
The composting program is a relatively new operation, which was created in conjunction with the Development Authority of the North Country, the Cornell Waste Management Institute and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.
Research showed that about 96 percent of food waste at the post’s dining facilities was either compostable or recyclable.
“The amount of food waste and wood waste is astounding,” Mr. Voss said. “I saw it as the biggest bang for our bucks.”
In addition to getting the new life from the unused food, the composting means less trash is heading toward the authority’s landfill, saving money and landfill space. The scraps are used in areas like the post’s timber management program, replacing nutrients stripped during logging.
Another program takes wood waste, such as waste ammunition cases and shipping palettes, and packages them for use as fuel at the on-post ReEnergy biomass plant, generating revenue and preventing the material from going to the landfill. Calling his vantage point with the trees “cradle to grave,” he said he hated to see them wasted.
“It makes me feel good that the wood has come to a better resting place than the landfill,” Mr. Voss said.
The wide-ranging efforts have not gone unnoticed by his superiors. James W. Corriveau, Fort Drum’s director of public works, said that Mr. Voss has taken the post’s forestry work in a direction that would have never been considered before.
“When you think of forest management, the basics are universal. We’ve been doing that here for generations,” Mr. Corriveau said. “What Rodger’s done here is another level.”
In the case of the composting and wood-waste recycling, Mr. Corriveau said that Mr. Voss’ work has put Fort Drum’s efforts on a scale “like nobody else is doing in the north country.”
“It’s taken us to a level of sustainability we’ve never been at before, and that’s a big thing,” Mr. Corriveau said.
He praised another program launched by Mr. Voss, a tree-tapping program with the post’s maple trees that he said helps acquaint military families to the north country.
“All they know is Aunt Jemima,” Mr. Corriveau said.
That maple tree tapping idea stemmed from what Mr. Voss called the best advice he’d ever received: Don’t stop trying to better yourself.
The idea had initially been met with support by his superior, but he was told that the timing wasn’t right. About a year later, Mr. Voss said that there were some shifts in opinion that
allowed the project to happen.
“It’s proven it’s a great thing we’re doing,” Mr. Voss said.
Asked how he would keep young people in the area, he said that the north country would need to work on developing small businesses and organizations that could help raise its cultural profile.
“Plant those seeds and make it a place they want to live,” he said.
— Gordon Block