Worthy forestcaretakermoves on | PostIndependent.com

Worthy forestcaretakermoves on

The name most synonymous with the debate over the White River National Forest plan is moving on.Martha Ketelle is taking a U.S. Forest Service job in Washington, D.C. But the impact she made on the WRNF will continue to be felt for years to come, thanks in part to the forward thinking she showed during work on the plan.That plan, released in 2002, established the broad vision for the WRNF for the next 10 to 15 years. It also included many specific decisions for getting there, in everything from skiing to logging to wilderness.Ketelle was involved in a lot besides the forest plan during her seven years at the helm of the WRNF. One accomplishment she is particularly proud of is the partnerships the Forest Service has built locally. The Building Bridges partnership with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments involves more than 20 local governments working with the forest on issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries – issues of increasing concern. Also, the White River Interpretive Association has been formed to promote volunteer opportunities that increase visitor contact.But the forest plan remains the crowning achievement on the WRNF for Ketelle – even if it was a plan altered from her initial vision. The preferred draft plan she proposed was one in which priority would have been placed on management practices promoting biodiversity. It was new thinking for the Forest Service, and engendered enough controversy that the final plan sought to strike more of a balance between biodiversity and meeting human needs.Still, Ketelle fostered an important discussion about forest priorities. The aggressive early bargaining position that she took may have produced a more conservation-oriented forest plan than otherwise would have been the case.Ketelle represents a new generation of thinking when it comes to forest management, and a generation that has more women in top decisionmaking positions. All of this has taken some time for the agency and the constituencies affected by it to adjust to. Some speculated that Ketelle might have jeopardized her job with her gutsy position on the forest plan. But the succeeding years have proven that her position was secure.Now she is heading to a position in which her experiences on the nation’s most-visited forest will be a big help. She will work in the national office’s Recreation Division. Among several other duties, she will be developing policy for special uses, concessionaires and winter sports activities. These are all potentially controversial issues that Ketelle has confronted on the WRNF, and her expertise in these areas and stomach for dealing with them should serve her, the agency and the public well.We wish her well in her new adventure, and thank her for her seven years of serving as the chief caretaker of our local forest.We wish her well in her new adventure, and thank her for her seven years of serving as the chief caretaker of our local forest.

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