A new special projects forester with extensive knowledge of forest ecosystems is now stationed in the Salida Field Office of the Colorado State Forest Service.
The new forester, Colorado resident Mercedes Siegle-Gaither, will support the local Chaffee Treats program in its goal of reducing fire risk across Chaffee County.
Through this program, Siegle-Gaither’s primary focus will be helping private landowners navigate the forest management process.
“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 the Upper Arkansas Valley of 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 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.
During 2020, she was based in Pagosa Springs as a CSFS forester working with landowners through a program similar to Chaffee Treats called My Southwest Forest.
At the CSFS Salida Field Office, Siegle-Gaither will support the Chaffee Treats program – a partnership among the CSFS, American Forest Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Chaffee Envision Forest Health Council and Colorado Fire Camp designed to help private landowners in the upper Arkansas valley protect and restore forested lands.
Through the program, qualified forest landowners in high-priority focus areas may be eligible for a free consultation with a local CSFS forester.
Siegle-Gaither’s initial priority focus areas will be the Cedar Ridge and Mesa Antero Estates, as well as the Coal Kiln Gulch and base of Mount Princeton.
Interested landowners can learn more about the Chaffee Treats program and confirm their eligibility by contacting the CSFS at (970) 507-0294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.