Non-native English speakers wanting to visit places such as Olympic and Gifford Pinchot national forests can use a new phone interpretation service to enhance their visit.
The Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday it was beginning a pilot “on demand” public service that will serve people wanting to visit agency lands in Washington and Oregon.
The new phone service offers immediate language interpretation at Forest Service offices, visitor centers and in the outdoors where phone service is available. Visitors will be asked to identify their language, and Forest Service staff members will call an interpretation specialist, according to a Forest Service news release.
The contract for the pilot program is with TransPerfect, which will provide interpretation services for 170 languages. The New York-based company is said to be the largest private company providing language services.
Call data will be assessed to determine the need for future services.
This program is a direct result of the region’s effort to be inclusive and accessible to the communities it serves, said Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest regional forester.
“We are committed to improving public access to Forest Service programs to foster respectful and inclusive interactions with the people and communities we serve,” Peña said in the news release. “Our national forests and grasslands are a source of beauty and inspiration, and belong to us all. We want to ensure everyone has access to the information they need to fully participate.”
Approximately one in five people nationwide have limited English proficiency, according to the agency. That limited proficiency can prevent full participation in federal programs, including decision-making processes, accessing important services, and understanding or exercising rights, the release says.
The Pacific Northwest region consists of 17 national forests, 59 district offices, two national scenic areas, a national grassland and two national volcanic monuments. These units covers 24.7 million acres in Washington and Oregon, and employ about 3,550 employees.
The other national forests in Washington are Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville. Also in the state is the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.