Mayville named District Ranger
EAGLE COUNTY — The Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest extends from Tennessee Pass to the Flat Tops, and Vail Pass to Hanging Lake.
It’s a nearly 700,000 acre working forest with everything from ranchers and loggers to big recreation operations such as Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek.
All of that area, and all of that use, is what Aaron Mayville says he likes most about the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. This week Mayville became the new district ranger for the local ranger district.
It’s a big job.
“We’ve got grazing permittees, we have timber projects, we’ve got hiking, wilderness, dispersed camping, camp grounds, and all the way up to very highly developed, resort-based recreation, and everything in between,” says Mayville. “That’s an exciting and interesting part of this district that keeps us busy, but also keeps us relevant to our local communities.”
IN THE FIELD
Back in the early 2000s, the Eagle and Holy Cross were two separate ranger districts. Only 16 percent of the National Forest’s budget went to funding work on forest fires, verses the 56 percent it is today. Mayville started his career with the Forest Service working in Washington, D.C., as a budget hearing coordinator.
“I was on C-SPAN, in a suit, passing notes to the people who were testifying to Congress,” he said. “It was wonderful as a way to learn about the Forest Service, and what we do, from a 30,000 foot level, but I knew, though, that I wanted to be in the field, I wanted to be out here, I wanted to get back west where I felt at home.”
Mayville grew up in Park City, Utah, where he became a skier at a young age. He remains a passionate skier to this day, a skill he says is crucial to understanding this ranger district.
“I think there’s a difference between one who skis, and a skier,” he said. “I consider myself a skier, and I think for this job, that’s very important, because we work very closely with the ski industry.”
These days, the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District is a single district, one of five in the White River National Forest, which sees more than double the amount of visitors as any other National Forest area in the country. Annual visitation was 13 million in 2012, and presently, “We think it’s more like 15 million,” Mayville said.
To handle that of volume, a district ranger in the White River National Forest must be a people person.
Before working for the National Forest, Mayville was in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. As a supervisor there, he realized he liked working with people. Now as a district ranger, “I get to balance the external community and be the voice and face of this district in the community, and also manage a staff that does great work,” he said.
In that, lies a challenge. With more and more of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget going to fighting forest fires, districts that don’t have as many problems with fire are really feeling the crunch.
“That translates directly to vacancies,” Mayville said. “At the Forest Service, as a whole, one-third of our positions are vacant right now.”
Included in those vacant positions is Mayville’s former job, the Deputy District Ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. What the district lacks in staffing, it makes up for with a desire to do good work, says Mayville.
“We really care about the resource, and the public, and doing a good job for people,” he said.
Mayville is hopeful for some relief from Congress, which could change the way the wildfire suppression is funded with a bill that both Colorado Sen. Corey Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet have co-sponsored.
“We’re being incredibly penny wise and pound foolish, when it comes to our forests,” Bennet said. “If you spend a dollar in prevention, spend a dollar in mitigation, it pays back so much in the cost of avoiding fires on the back end. This September, we’re going back to try to reorient the way that program works, and to get it funded properly … treat (fires) the way you treat other disasters that happen in this country. We’ve made some progress with FEMA thinking differently about things, but the budgeting is the key here, and we’ve got to keep going on that.”
Welcome to fall in Colorado, where a red flag warning one day is followed the next day by snow and rain.