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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 8 - 14, 2003


Ranger credits
employees for
SNRA’s successes

"The staff on the national recreation area are the most dedicated Forest Service employees I have ever worked for in my life. No comparison. They’re doing the right work for the resource."


Express Staff Writer

As the date of her departure from Idaho drew near, Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ranger Deb Cooper scrambled to finish some big projects.

Deb Cooper

Among them was a long-awaited environmental review of grazing practices on the eastern slope of the White Cloud Mountains, which was released today. It’s a project the SNRA’s staff members have been slaving over for several years.

She’s also worked to orchestrate efforts in the White Cloud Mountains to monitor declining populations of mountain goats.

But those are only two of the most recent projects Cooper conducted during four and a half years at the 756,000-acre national treasure’s helm. They’re also two of the last.

Cooper transferred to the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, where she will be the district ranger for the Seward Ranger District in Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. Her last day was Friday, Oct. 3.

Sarah Baldwin, a 23-year U.S. Forest Service veteran, will take the SNRA area ranger reins in mid-October.

During Cooper’s tenure, the SNRA wrestled with a myriad of high-profile issues, including valuable steps toward resolution to conflicts between cross country skiers and snowmobilers and between livestock ranchers and reintroduced gray wolves. Under her leadership, the SNRA also undertook a variety of recreation-oriented projects, as well as steps to curb the fire danger in developed areas where mountain pine beetles have killed lodgepole pine trees.

"Some of the most challenging projects were also the most rewarding," she said.

But her highest praise was for the staff she worked with.

"The staff on the national recreation area are the most dedicated Forest Service employees I have ever worked for in my life. No comparison. They’re doing the right work for the resource," she said in an interview two weeks ago.

Among Forest Service posts, the top ranger position at the SNRA is highly scrutinized, requires substantial time and energy, as well as "a bullet proof ego," the ranger said.

For Cooper, the time arrived to step out of the limelight.

"The job up there is just never going to be easy," she said. "In my opinion, (the SNRA) is just the grandest place in the state, if not the nation. I just wish I could have done more to help the staff."

Cooper said budget constraints and the enormous pressures from land-use groups converge on the SNRA to create an unfair understanding that the bureaucracy is larger than it is.

"As long as there’re 25 to 30 permanent employees on the SNRA, each with a stack of backlogged projects, the perception will be that there is more of a bureaucracy than there is," she said. "But I’d like to think I’ve helped facilitate (the SNRA’s employees) moving forward on individual projects."

Cooper was the area ranger at the SNRA since February 1999, when she assumed the post that was vacated by former Area Ranger Paul Reis.

"I am truly saddened when I think of leaving the SNRA," Cooper said. "Being the SNRA area ranger for the past four an a half years has been both a demanding and rewarding job. I’m looking to new challenges and a new scope of work, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the SNRA."

SNRA Deputy Area Ranger Lisa Stoeffler also transferred away from Central Idaho. The changeover of the area’s top two rangers leads the SNRA into a time of transition.

Established in 1972 by Congress, the SNRA consists of 756,000 acres bridging the Sawtooth, Boise and Salmon-Challis National Forests. Though the SNRA has an administration of its own, the Sawtooth National Forest provides further oversight.

National recreation areas are set aside to showcase multiple use Forest Service management practices.



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