Local district ranger set to start new position in capital
EAGLE COUNTY — After working with the Eagle and Holy Cross Ranger District for the last six years, District Ranger Dave Neely will be leaving the area for a new position in Washington, D.C.
At the capital, he’ll work as a legislative affairs specialist, acting as a liaison between the U.S. Forest Service and Congress. While it’s work that he has been interested in pursuing for a number of years, Neely said he wanted to be a district ranger first and will miss working in the Colorado mountains.
“When I look around at the landscape I have here, the land owned by all of us in this country that the folks in Eagle County get to enjoy everyday, I’m incredibly grateful,” he said. “It was an extraordinary privilege to have stewardship of that for everyone.”
During his time as district ranger, Neely oversaw the clearing and re-use of pine beetle kill wood, helped manage wildfire mitigation in one of the worst fire seasons the area has seen in years and was part of breaking ground on Vail Mountain’s Epic Discovery summer program.
“When I first came on, they said, ‘It’ll be nothing but pine beetle for you,’ but I’m glad we’ve been able to get past that and work on some other projects,” he said.
He said he’s especially proud of the work the local Forest Service has done with land swaps (one such swap led to the establishment of Avon’s open space), and the beginnings of a plan to restore the watershed at Camp Hale.
“Of the progress we’ve made, the most significant has been the cleanup and restoration at Camp Hale. Restoring five linear miles of stream at high elevation headwaters at a major tributary — it’s something I wish I were going to be able to see the ribbon cutting for. It’s something I’m pretty amazed at,” he said.
Neely called his work in Eagle County both challenging and rewarding.
“The sheer volume of opportunities and issues here is staggering, and I’ve joked for years that what would be a once-in-a-career effort on most ranger districts in the country is just what we do on Thursday around here. Add that to far-and-away the highest visitation of any National Forest in the country, and one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world, and you have a quite a potent recipe for challenge,” Neely said.
Neely leaves his White River National Forest post at the end of January and begins in Washington, D.C., in early February. Deputy District Ranger Aaron Mayville will be the acting district ranger until Neely’s position is filled.
Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.
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