Gustafson to lead White River National Forest |

Gustafson to lead White River National Forest

DENNIS WEBBgarfield county correspondent
Special to the DailyMaribeth Gustafson was named forest supervisor of the White River National Forest.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Western Colorado’s gain is the Lake Tahoe region’s loss, officials in California are saying after a forest supervisor there was named Friday to the same position on the White River National Forest.Maribeth Gustafson, a 24-year Forest Service employee, expects to start in her new job sometime in April. She has been forest supervisor of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit in California since 2000.There, she gained a reputation for her ability to get the Forest Service working in collaboration with others on issues.”She’s been really a key figure here. I think you’re fortunate,” said Dennis Machida, executive officer of the California Tahoe Conservancy, a state agency that acquires and restores land in the Lake Tahoe region.Many of the efforts in the Lake Tahoe region involve environmental preservation and restoration activities, “which requires working with a number of public entities and private entities,” Machida said.”I think she’s been a really strong component of that effort,” he said.Jim Maxwell, a spokesman for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, said Gustafson’s collaborative skills figured prominently in the agency’s decision to hire her to oversee the WRNF.

He called building partnerships “a key factor in taking care of public lands.”For Gustafson, partnerships will be important in everything from working with resort communities in examining whether to expand ski areas, to building fire management programs in cooperation with other agencies and with residential areas near forests.The White River National Forest is currently working on its travel management plan, which will address issues such as where vehicles are allowed on the forest. Maxwell called that effort “a very ripe apple for partnering with the local community and the state government as well so we’re all together and it’s a win-win situation.”Gustafson said Friday, “I think it’s pretty essential that somebody in that kind of a role at least have a desire to work collaboratively with the public and with business interests and with all involved. It’s very much been my approach to things.”Gustafson became familiar with working with the ski industry while in the Lake Tahoe area. She also gained experience that could serve the White River National Forest well when she worked as assistant director for fire and aviation management in the Pacific Southwest Regional Office.Gustafson succeeds Martha Ketelle, who was the first female supervisor of the White River National Forest. Ketelle left her job in June for a position at the Forest Service’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.Since then, a succession of acting supervisors have served, pending the hiring of a permanent replacement for Ketelle.

WRNF spokeswoman Sue Froeschle said employees are looking forward to having a new supervisor in place, to help the agency move forward with decisions and projects.She said deputy supervisor Don Carroll, who was serving as the last acting supervisor and also had applied to replace Ketelle, will continue on as deputy supervisor, easing the transition.Gustafson said she realizes the WRNF has been dealing with disruption and Carroll has been “playing double-duty.””I’m sure he and everyone else is ready to get some stability and create a common track and get on it,” she said.Gustafson called the WRNF “one of the premier forests in the national forest system.””I’m very intrigued by the fabulous wilderness areas and the peaks to climb, hopefully, and certainly working with the ski industry interests me as well,” she said.She also expressed interest in the issue of natural gas development, which is increasingly occurring on WRNF lands.

She said she wouldn’t leave the Lake Tahoe region “for just anywhere.”The public is actively involved in public lands issues there, and she is looking forward to dealing with citizens in Colorado who also are passionate about the national forest.”That’s what I find exciting. It’s a pretty daunting task to feel that responsible for resources the public cares so much about,” she said.John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said Gustafson has served the public well there.”Plus, she’s just a delightful human being.””I’m glad she was able to get a job in a beautiful place, anyway. It will be a loss for this area here,” he said.Dennis Webb can be reached at (970) 945-8515, ext. 516, or at

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