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New boss for a new forest

A new forest has a new boss.

Brian Ferebee was selected as the forest supervisor for the newly combined Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which consists of seven ranger districts on 2.2 million acres.

"I am pleased to have such an experienced manager to provide the necessary leadership for the many complex issues faced by the forests," Intermountain Forester Harv Forsgren said in a prepared statement.

The area is known for outstanding recreational opportunities.

"From a manager’s standpoint, it is attractive because there is such a variety of challenges that one has to deal with," Ferebee said in a telephone interview Thursday.

His 19-year Forest Service career has included an assignment in the Kamas Ranger District. He was forest supervisor in the Uinta National Forest when it combined recently with the Wasatch-Cache.

"If you just want to get away from [the Wasatch Back,] it’s an attractive area," Ferebee said.

With $4-a-gallon gas, the number of city-dwellers who flock to the Uinta Mountains could increase.

"If people don’t travel long distance, we perceive they will travel locally," Ferebee said. "We would expect that if people stay home they’re still going to want to get out."

But the cost to use the Mirror Lake Highway spiked this summer.

"We have not increased fees at all since ’96 But we need to make sure we’re keeping the money locally and we’re spending the money on things that the users feel are important," Ferebee said. "Surely, raising fees once in 12 years was very reasonable. Many of the users can see and appreciate how those fees have been used."

Petroleum production in the Uinta Mountains remains flat as oil prices have surged, Ferebee explained.

"We haven’t seen a change either way," he said, adding that officials are studying ways to obtain oil and natural gas in the Uintas.

High fuel costs impact Forest Service budgets and likely contributed to needing to combine ranger districts in Heber and Kamas, Ferebee explained.

"You start to cut into your spending power," he said.

Still, the Forest Service office in Kamas will stay at 50 E. Center Street.

"Although the two districts were combined, [citizens] should expect to see similar levels of service that they have experienced in the past," said Ferebee, who is 41 years old.

But several jobs were lost when the districts combined.

Meanwhile, disputes in the forest east of Kamas often involve livestock grazing on the Mirror Lake Highway.

"We need to make sure it’s done in an appropriate manner," Ferebee said. "We always have to think about the resource which were managing and make sure it can sustain that use, not just short term, but long term for generations in the future."

Timber sales also regularly occur in the national forest, he explained.

"We have to prioritize resources," Ferebee said.

Bark beetles ravage trees near Kamas creating deadwood, which causes tinderbox-like fire hazards in the woods.

"Going up the Mirror Lake Highway and looking at the North Slope, you see quite a bit more [dying] trees," Ferebee said. "We have quite a bark beetle situation that is carrying itself out."


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