Forest Service sees high turnover in Vail Valley
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – The top official at the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger district is leaving his post, and officials in Colorado’s Vail Valley say a lack of affordable housing could pose a challenge in recruiting job candidates.
“People look and see how much a house costs – they can’t afford it,” forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said.
The ranger district oversees a large swath of the White River National Forest in Eagle County.
District Ranger Brian Lloyd plans to leave the Minturn office Friday after about two and a half years on the job. He’s relocating to the U.S. Forest Service office in Golden. Lloyd plans to move to Silverthorne to be closer to his fiance, who works as a district ranger in Dillon.
“It’s mostly for personal reasons,” Lloyd said. “It’s a job down in the regional office I would love to do, but mostly it allows us to actually live in the same place instead of having to commute over Vail Pass every night.”
The Forest service started advertising for the job about a month ago on government Web sites, Fitzwilliams said. He hopes to hire someone within the next four months. Salary ranges from roughly $70,000 to $92,000.
The full-time job involves supervising about 70 employees in the Minturn and Eagle ranger offices, Fitzwilliams said. Duties also include managing programs in the White River National Forest like removing hazard trees, granting permits for events and protecting fisheries, Lloyd said.
As Lloyd heads to Golden, another longtime ranger station employee plans to retire. Dave Van Norman, the recreation staff officer in Minturn, plans to leave Nov. 1 after 32 years with the Forest Service.
“It’s just time to move on, look for new challenges,” he said.
Lloyd, who will hire Van Norman’s replacement, expects to begin advertising that job during the first week of November. He hopes to fill it by March. The full-time job involves overseeing recreation programs and campgrounds. Salary for the job ranges from $56,000 to $73,000.
The White River National Forest has been grappling with high turnover because employees can’t find affordable housing, Lloyd said.
“If you’re a young couple or a young family and you want to buy a home, it’s kind of hard to do that here,” he said.
Along with keeping employees, the lack of affordable housing makes it tough to recruit job candidates, Fitzwilliams said.
“I’ve had them tell me straight out, ‘I’d love to come work with you. I’d love to come to the district but I just can’t afford it.'”
The forest service does have some employee housing in the Vail Valley. Three houses in Eagle and three houses in Minturn are earmarked for employees, but they’re in high demand among the 35 full-time staffers.
Along with those houses, the forest service has three bunk houses in Eagle County for seasonal employees.
In an effort to provide more employee housing, the forest service has been talking with Eagle County Housing and Development about working together, said Randy Parker, a conveyance program manager for the Forest Service office in Glenwood Springs.
They’ve been talking about placing forest service employees in existing deed-restricted housing in Eagle County. Other options might include building employee housing on Forest Service land in Eagle or swapping land with the county for employee housing, Parker said.
However, laws currently forbid the forest service from entering into a housing agreement with the county, he said. Forest service officials are preparing a bill for congress that would allow deal, Parker said.
High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.