Michelle Capp began her position in April as Salem’s District Ranger in the Mark Twain National Forest. According to Capp, she has been spending much of her time since then orienting herself to her staff and to the National Forest Service land that she is responsible for.
“I try to get out on ATV trails as much as possible, and I look at past timber sales and what we’re looking for with future timber sales,” she said.
Capp brings 25 years of civil service experience with her to the role, and she is no stranger to working collaboratively to do what is best for public land. Capp comes to Missouri from the Pacific Northwest, where she worked on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Cle Elum Ranger District in the state of Washington. She served as district ranger there for nearly six years, which was an experience that prepared her to jump right into her current position on Mark Twain. That said, Capp is actually a native Missourian, despite having spent her entire career out of state. She grew up in the Washington and Sullivan areas.
“Moving here is kind of like coming home,” she said. Capp and her husband, Chris Capp, who is a woodworker, live in Rolla with their six-year old daughter.
“We left a place where we had lots of dogs, cats and chickens, and we brought everybody with us except the chickens,” said Capp, reflecting on the transition from Washington to Missouri.
Capp’s major goal now that she has come to Salem is to collaborate with the community to both promote the historic nature of the Mark Twain National Forest as well as create a positive economic benefit to surrounding communities by properly utilizing the resources available in the Mark Twain National Forest.
One project that Capp is excited for is a reforestation project that is brand new, the National Environmental Policy Act analysis is only just beginning.
“I’m having my first meeting a week and a half from now to introduce the project to the interdisciplinary team,” she said.
“The goal of the project is restoration, primarily restoring that timber composition to what it was pre-European settlement. In doing so, it will provide opportunities for folks to be able to utilize that timber. It’s a working forest here. There’s a lot of timber sales going on across the district. We are looking to create some economic stability to our local economies here in small towns that are dotted around the forest.”
Capp says that her style of forest management is highly collaborative. She is looking to work with people in local communities to achieve not only what is best for the forest but what is best for the people who live here. She does so by equipping her staff with the knowledge of how best to educate the public on what the National Forest Service is doing.
“Which means bring in people, like folks that are in the timber industry and the nature conservancy, people that are interested in recreation, to look at that landscape along with us, so that it’s something that we do together. I want to have the ear to listen,” she said.
During Capp’s time with NFS in Washington, she worked closely on projects with the community by operating what she called a Collaborative, which is a group of people that are interested parties in the landscape. “So that we’re not making decisions in a vacuum,” she said.
Capps said that she is interested in creating positive connections and a shared vision for managing this Ranger District.
“I have a strict open-door policy,” said Capp.
People can stop by the Salem Ranger District station any weekday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. However, much of Capp’s work takes her out into the forest, so it’s a gamble if you catch her in the office.
Capp is interested in cultivating connections and relationships that will make her job more effective.
To learn more about Mark Twain National forest and the Salem Ranger District visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mtnf/about-forest/offices.