Warm Springs and James River Districts welcome New Ranger

The Allegheny Highlands are welcoming the new district Ranger for Warm Springs and James River districts. In this little collection of news pieces, we learn about Elizabeth McNichols, and what she offers in her new position. We welcome her, and her over thirty years forest service experience, which will no doubt, enrich this part of the woods. Elizabeth McNichols,

“I came from the Huron Manastee National Forest in Northern lower Michigan. There’s actually three National Forests in Michigan, the Hiawatha, and the Ottowa National Forests are in the upper peninsula, and the Huron Manastee is in the Northern Lower. It’s typical Great Lakes, northern forest. A lot of it is freshwater lakes, and surrounded by the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, very cold freshwater lakes. Canada is actually on the other side of Lake Huron.”

In her college years at University of Wisconnsin, Stephens Point studying forestry, McNichols spent her summers working as a forester in the Hiawatha National Forest.

While we discussed her previous position, I had to get that elementary school image of Michigan as a mitten in my mind. McNichols continued,

“Well the George Washington Jefferson is actually the largest national forest on the eastern part of the United States. It’s one point seven million acres. The forest I came from on the Hron-Manastee was a little less than a million acres.   And it was spread out into two-pieces actually.

That’s why they call it the HuronManastee. The Huron was on the Lake Huron side of the penninsula, And then the Manastee was on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula.”

During those first eight years, McNichols used that natural wisdom, of “ be adaptive” to make her own progress, while she learned about working for such a huge organization. Her next adaptation meant less time in the woods, and more time at a desk.

“The Forest Service actually got new computer equipment, and they were a pilot for the new geographic information systems. And I’d worked on computers before, and they asked me if I was willing to take on this pilot program. And was started out as pilot turned into permanent, and we developed all the data. Everything that was on paper maps, we turned into digital format.”

Now anyone wanting USFS weather; what campsites might be changing; what hunting season predictions might be could easily find it attached to its specific region of the forest .

Elizabeth McNichols knew, or could research, all three of the National Forest Districts in Michigan in a level of detail that would not have been possible before.

“We started connecting it to all of our data bases, and we were able to do a lot of environmental analysis with the data.   It’s been a huge game changer for the Forest Service as far as figuring out effect. SO that turned into managing data bases, and then I went into NEPA, and then I started managing our recreation program, and then as we got less and less people in the Forest Service, um you know, we just took on more and more rolls, and I took on more roles just like everybody else.

For another part of this series of stories, and more they will inspire, stay tuned to AMR.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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