RBC I Meeker-area native Hal Pearce currently wears three hats within his duties at the U.S. Forest Service and he is awaiting the day in the “hopefully” not-too-distant future when he only has to fill two hats.
Since the November departure of District Ranger Ken Coffin to Red Lodge, Mont., Pearce has been filling the role of district ranger out of Meeker’s White River National Forest Field Office. His other two hats come into play as his normal jobs include being the invasive species and pesticide coordinator as well as the program manager for the White River National Forest’s ranger staff.
His normal areas of concern in the job regarding the invasive species and pesticides include all of Colorado, Southern Wyoming, parts of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, a national forest in Nebraska and the Cimarron Grasslands in Kansas.
“Considering how large an area I have to cover, I am exceedingly lucky to be working where I grew up,” Pearce said, explaining that his father moved to the Meeker area in 1943. “I love it here, but it is extremely rare to be working in one’s home neighborhood, although I think the familiarity I have with this area is a good thing.”
Pearce said he does not plan to seek the position as Coffin’s replacement when the U.S. Forest Services advertises to fill the job vacancy, which is planned for Jan. 14 (today). He said he can foresee retiring in three to four years and that he believes it is good to have continuity and would rather not have another turnover in the position in a couple of years.
Pearce said the USFS will advertise the job for seven days with the job search closing Jan. 21.
He explained that a panel will be chosen to look at all the candidates and that at least one of those on the panel will be from the local ranger district. The panel will make a suggestion to the top officials in the Denver office of the USFS, and the final decision will be made there.
Pearce said that decisions on district rangers, forest supervisors and deputy supervisors are all made out of the Denver headquarters.
“Hopefully, we will have a new ranger on board by April,” he said, adding that the new ranger would have to wrap up where he or she is now, will need to move and will need to find a new place to live. “That may be a wishful thinking timeline, but I also think it is realistic.”
Pearce said 2016 should be relatively similar in projects to 2015 as “We have a budget that is about flat with 2015 and we don’t have a huge work load of new projects for the year.”
He said the Meeker office will continue with the trail recreation crew and will be hiring a range specialist in the spring after going a year without.
He also said the USFS will be working with the Rio Blanco County Road and Bridge Crew on two fairly large projects come summer—the Hay Flats Road and the South Fork Campground area, where road work and improvements will be made.
He said the Butterfly-Burrell uranium mine reclamation is basically done with only a few wrap-up details there, and “we have a first-time weed program that includes crop-weed treatments, which should help out quite a bit.”
Come spring, the USFS will have on board a three-person off-highway vehicle (OHV) crew that will work through the fall to maintain the OHV roads and trails in the district. That program is funded through the USFS and the state OHV board.
“The crew will be maintaining the trails, taking care of signs, making repairs and working with the local OHV clubs,” he said. “The USFS will not be expanding the trail system, but they will stay busy keeping the existing trails in good shape.”
Other than the two road projects, “I don’t know of any other special projects,” Pearce said. “We are working on some grants to supplement our budget, and, weather permitting, we will possibly have some spring burns in the Miller Creek and Aldrich Lakes area; our grazing programs with the sheep and cattle are stable and running smoothly; and our hunting and lodges program is stable.”
The White River Office of the White River National Forest includes the White River drainage, heads east to the summit of Ripple Creek Pass and the Devil’s Causeway, goes northwest to the Lost Lakes and Morapos Creek area, South to the Bar HL Ranch country and Triangle Park area and almost to Flag Creek to the West.