Multiple uses of forest land a plus for new Rifle ranger
Citizen Telegram Editor
Sarah Hankens has always had a tendency to move to places she’s never been, site unseen.
Rifle is now one of those places, as Hankens arrived at the beginning of June for her new position as district ranger for the Rifle Ranger District of the White River National Forest.
After getting to know her 20-person staff and the lay out of the approximate 300,000-acre district, Hankens, 36, said there’s a wide variety of uses of the forest land.
“You have winter recreation with cross-country skiing and snowmobiles, [all-terrain vehicles] and hiking, fishing and camping in the summer,” she said. “I like that the district truly represents the multiple-use concept.”
Challenges Hankens listed include oil and natural gas development, range permittees and others.
“Every place has its own challenges,” she added.
As a federal agency, budget concerns and managing funds in the most efficient and best way is a constant challenge, Hankens said.
Hankens has already gotten involved with partner organizations, helping clean up the historic Cayton Ranger Station and a trail project on East Elk Creek.
“I also spent a day talking about recreation management with some of our partner organizations and driving all over the district,” she added. “I think it’s important to make these volunteer groups know that they’re important to us, and not just because of budget concerns.”
Hankens also oversees the district’s mineral leasing program, including natural gas. She said the completion of a forest-wide oil and gas leasing environmental impact statement will help her in that role. Hankens has also been a public information officer on wildfires.
Before arriving in Rifle, Hankens was a National Environmental Protection Act coordinator on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and lived in a town of about 800 people called Marlinton, W. Va.
Hankens has held a variety of leadership, planning and recreation positions with the Forest Service in West Virginia, New Hampshire and Arizona over the past 12 years. Before joining the Forest Service, she worked for a variety of outdoor programs, including the Student Conservation Association and the Maine Conservation Corps.
Born in Connecticut, Hankens headed west for college, with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Oregon and a masters degree in rural geography from Northern Arizona University.
“I worked with the AmeriCorps program in Maine and had always hiked and been outdoors in places like New Hampshire and Vermont,” Hankens said. “But it wasn’t until I came out west that I understood what the real outdoors is all about.”
Later this summer, Hankens plans to take a horseback tour of the district, which will be her first time riding a horse.
“Just getting out there and seeing what multiple use opportunities there are, whether it’s trails, open space, wildlife habitat,” she said.
Hankens is married to Jeff Hankens and they have two small children, Josephine, 2, and Abraham, 5.
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