By Teddy Parker-Renga
Special to The SUN
A new special projects forester with extensive knowledge of forest ecosystems is now available to help guide landowners through the forest management process.
The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) recently hired Colorado resident Mercedes Siegle-Gaither to assist with the My Southwest Forest program. She brings a wealth of skills in natural resources and public outreach to this position and plans to begin with a focus on the Pagosa Springs area.
“I can’t wait to get involved with the community and local forests to increase stewardship in the area. We have such amazing forests here in southwest Colorado,” Siegle-Gaither said. “I feel that taking care of our forest ecosystems is something we can all be a part of: Healthy forests mean healthy communities.”
Siegle-Gaither was born in central Wisconsin, where she developed her love for the outdoors and forest environments. She attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and majored in biology. While working toward her undergraduate degree, she studied symbiotic relationships in Belize and plant ecology and management in Australia at the University of Newcastle-Callaghan. Siegle-Gaither attended Mississippi State University to obtain her master of science in forestry, focusing on hydrology and ecology.
After graduating, she worked for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming and Colorado in the cadastral (land boundaries) and recreation departments. Siegle-Gaither then accepted a position as the urban and community forestry coordinator for the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture before returning to Colorado to work as a wildlife biology technician for the Southwest Conservation Corps and BLM in Cañon City. As a wildlife technician, she developed a deeper passion for protecting Colorado’s forests while backpacking through the Mosquito and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges, deploying bat detectors and establishing lynx analysis units in coniferous forest habitats.
At the CSFS, Siegle-Gaither will support the My Southwest Forest program, a partnership among the CSFS, American Forest Foundation and Natural Resources Conservation Service designed to help private landowners in southwestern Colorado protect and restore forested lands. Through the program, qualified forest landowners may be eligible for a free consultation with a local CSFS forester.
To learn more about the program, please visit MySouthwestForest.org. Landowners can call Siegle-Gaither at the NRCS Pagosa Springs Field Office at 731-3615.
By Teddy Parker-Renga