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Mount Hood National Forest welcomes new Forest Supervisor posted on 11/01/2021

When Meta Loftsgaarden moved to northwest Oregon in 2003, she looked east from her office in Portland and saw the sun rising over Mount Hood.

“There’s nothing more gorgeous,” she said.

Now, as the new Forest Supervisor for the Mount Hood National Forest (MHNF), Loftsgaarden will get a multitude of views of that iconic peak, overseeing four different ranger districts (including the Zigzag Ranger District) and everything associated with them, from recreation and timber harvest to fire prevention and fish habitat.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” she said. “The Mount Hood National Forest is really just one of the most diverse forests in the west, certainly in this region.”

Loftsgaarden grew up in Montana, noting that she spent much of her time in national forests and parks, including spending time cross country skiing. In her early days in Oregon, she and her husband came to the Zigzag Ranger District where she realized that despite the forest’s proximity to an urban center, there were undiscovered places just a short distance away.

“For me, Zigzag was the first place that I got to that made me feel that this could be home,” she said, adding that while she is new to the job, she has spent 18 years finding places on Mount Hood to explore.

Loftsgaarden previously worked for the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service on partnership and policy issues including farmland protection, working forestland easements, and strategic conservation, and most recently served as the Executive Director for the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, a state agency that supports community-based conservation, habitat restoration, and improved water quality.

For Loftsgaarden, balancing the demands on the forest, with the large numbers of visitors and the transportation issues, with the environmental impact of human activities as a challenge for her new role, also noting the forest’s economic impact, including timber harvesting.

“I think there’s a lot of really cool opportunities that lie within that in how we manage the forest moving forward,” she said.

When asked about a possible revision of the Northwest Forest Plan, originally signed in 1990 and used to manage the forest (including the recently approved timber harvest under the Zigzag Integrated Resource Project), Loftsgaarden noted that the efforts would be started at the national level. She added that even without revisions, there have been studies and other analysis that have been informing decisions connected to the plan.

Loftsgaarden also said that when there is a revision to the plan, she anticipates working on it with the public and various other partners in an open and transparent way.

“I would expect that this is going to be a process that we are going to engage a lot of people in,” she said.

Loftsgaarden also noted how she wants to help visitors and others understand how closely the decisions on the forest are connected to the people who live there. In light of that, she said she plans on being “thoughtful and intentional” about those decisions and to take the time to understand the perspectives of people living in the forest corridor.

“Everything impacts people on the Mountain,” said Loftsgaarden, who has a Masters of Public Administration from Portland State University and a Bachelor of Science from Montana State University. “A lot of forests don’t have this population.”

By Garth Guibord/MT

 

 

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