The U.S. Forest Service’s new District Ranger for Petersburg is in town. Since arriving this spring he’s been working to learn more about the region and the community, and to develop solutions for budget shortfalls. Abbey Collins reports.

Dave Zimmerman may have relocated to Petersburg, but he says one of the issues facing this ranger district is something felt throughout the country.

“It’s something that we don’t have too much control of and that’s our declining recreation budget,” says Zimmerman. “It’s declined nationwide.”

Zimmerman says a hurting budget makes it difficult to actually get projects done and to hire the amount of people needed for that work.

“So we’re working through that challenge to try to find ways to think outside the box,” he says, “get some partnerships going maybe on the private sector to help us work in our recreation program.”

According to Zimmerman, there’s a lot in the works as he heads into his first summer in the district.

“We’ve got some fish surveys, goshawk surveys, stream monitoring, we’ve got a crew working with gathering vegetative and timber information,” says Zimmerman.

And, he says the trail and cabin maintenance crews are out working despite typically being understaffed due to budget constraints.

“But they keep the morale high and they do a fantastic job keeping our cabins and our trail systems up to speed,” he says.

Zimmerman arrived in Petersburg by ferry with his wife in March, marking his return to the Tongass. He previously worked for the Forest Service in Sitka and Juneau. Since his arrival he says he’s been spending time getting to know the community here.

“The main thing is really trying to get a list of people civic and partnership organizations together and introduce myself to them,” says Zimmerman. “I’m a member of rotary. After this week I’ll have made two trips out to Kake. Trying to get to know the communities that are in the district here. Petersburg, Kupreanof and Kake. Meet with those leadership teams and introduce myself.”

He says he’s trying to learn more about the district in a role that has recently been vacant in Petersburg.

“We didn’t have a ranger here for a fairly long period of time so there’s been a somewhat lack of a maybe formal leadership here,” says Zimmerman. “But there’s staff that took that ball and ran with it quite well and continued to make the district successful.”

Zimmerman says he’s looking forward to being back in a district, working with the people that actually get out there and do the work.