While he was hunting black-tailed deer in a remote part of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Southern Oregon last week, Ian Reid reached a ridge where he got cell reception and noticed he had missed a message.
It was from the U.S. Forest Service, offering Reid, an 18-year Forest Service employee, a new job and a new start supervising the Sisters district of the Deschutes National Forest.
“It just all fell into place,” Reid said Friday. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind.”
The 43-year-old Reid will take over in December, filling a role that’s been occupied on an interim basis for much of the year, for a district that has been ravaged by wildfires and is adjusting to increasing levels of public use. Still, Reid said he’s excited for the opportunity.
“As public land managers, it’s our job to give the public what the public wants,” Reid said.
Deschutes National Forest spokeswoman Kassidy Kern said Kristie Miller, the former Sisters district ranger, retired earlier this year, and two Forest Service employees, Kevin Keown and Amy Tinderholt, have filled the role on a temporary basis since then.
Enter Reid, an Oregon native who has worked for the Forest Service since 1999. Reid graduated from Southern Oregon University, where he played football and was a teammate of former University of Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich.
“We both thought we wanted to be doctors and we both went in different directions,” Reid said.
Since then, Reid has worked on forests across the state, living everywhere from Medford to Ukiah, a town with under 200 residents near the Umatilla National Forest. He began his career at the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest as a fish biologist, and he praised the public-private partnerships focused on habitat restoration in the Deschutes River Basin.
“It does help me to be able to speak that language,” Reid said.
Still, he added that he’s worked in a variety of roles for the Forest Service, from resource management to serving on an interagency hotshot firefighting crew to, most recently, working as the North Fork John Day district ranger on the Umatilla National Forest.
“As a biologist, you need to know a lot about a little,” Reid said. “As a district ranger, you need to know a little about a lot.”
Reid will serve as a primary point of contact for the approximately 400,000-acre district and will oversee about 50 full-time employees, according to Kern. Like much of Central Oregon, the Sisters district was beset by wildfires over the summer. Most notably, the Milli Fire burned about 24,000 acres west of Sisters, prompting evacuation notices and smoke advisories in and around Sisters during the late summer.
Reid said he wanted to use the Milli Fire as a learning experience. He likened the fire situation in Central Oregon to his experience in Ashland, another community where homes and other buildings rub shoulders with a national forest.
“You have a lot of high-value properties … butting right up to the forest,” Reid said of Sisters.
Amid claims that popular areas in the Deschutes National Forest are overused, he said the challenge for the Forest Service is to maintain popular areas without unduly restricting visitors from accessing their favorite places.
“People should have the ability to be spontaneous,” he said.
Reid will be joined by his wife, Annie, and their two daughters, Ila and Opal. In contrast to his prior job, where his daily commute took three hours or more, the family plans to live in Sisters, down the street from the district headquarters.
“We want to live in the Sisters community,” he said.
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