WENATCHEE — Kristin Bail has been on the job as the new Forest Supervisor of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for about two weeks now.
“Moved into my house literally yesterday and with an epic mess going on in my house right now,” Bail said with a laugh.
She is replacing Mike Williams, who retired on May 17. Before coming to Wenatchee, Bail worked in Washington, D.C., as acting director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air and Rare Plants office. She has also worked as a forest supervisor in North Carolina, a deputy forest supervisor for the Coconino National Forest in Arizona and a district ranger in Ochoco National Forest in Oregon.
Bail grew up in Phoenix and and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in geology, she said. She was interested in taking the job here, because she wanted to return to the Western United States.
“I just love it here and I’m really grateful to be here and be back working close with communities and folks on the ground and getting my hands on daily resource issues,” she said. “You miss that in D.C. because that role is more about policy. And here you’re at the forefront of making that policy happen.”
She first became interested in working for the Forest Service as a child going to summer camp in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Bail said. One day she met a Forest Service employee while working as a camp counselor.
“I was riding a horse and I happened to be on the forest and I came across a gal who I now know is a silviculturist,” she said. “She was out checking a plantation (where they grew trees) and how successfully it was reestablishing. I just thought that would be really cool job to be able to work outdoors and do things that care for the land.”
She describes her philosophy for the National Forest as focusing on collaboration and public service. She wants to work with communities and organizations and respond to their concerns and interests.
“We definitely want to work and strive to be good neighbors to our communities,” she said. “To work on behalf of the public with our partners.”
She is aware that the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is fire prone and has experienced many large wildfires, Bail said. There is a need to treat forests and deal with a changing climate in the area, she said.
“Our secretary has a lot of expectations, and I agree, with what we can do to increase the pace and scale of active forest management,” she said.
As for the future of the forest management and challenges to maintaining trails, the Forest Service is looking for more flexibility with its funding from Congress, Bail said. It would like to see its dollars not put into narrowly defined funds and instead have larger buckets that it can manipulate.
She still has a lot of learning to do about the different issues that the forest faces, though, and wants to listen first before generating opinions, she said.
“Before I have an opinion on something I do like to get out there,” Bail said. “That is on my to-do list to visit some of the more treasured areas. Because you know I would want that of someone who was making decisions about some place that I loved. It’s like, ‘Well have you even been there?’”