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New USFS ranger comes to Blackduck

New Blackduck District Ranger Greg Morris stands with his staff, Nancy Salminen, Mary Nipp and Wendy Eisenrich at the district office in Blackduck.

Greg Morris brings a varied background to his new position as ranger for the Blackduck district of the U.S. Forest Service, but he's grown up with trees.

As he brings that background in forest management to his new position, he's excited to be doing so.

There are 600,000 acres of forest ownership in the district with several interests in that acreage. In addition to the Forest Service itself, there are the interests of Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources, tribal lands and lands of private owners.

"Working with all these interests means there has to be a lot of cooperation," Morris said, and he's looking forward to that.

High on the list right now are timber sales. Morris said in addition to the current four, five more sales are planned during the coming year. "There's a strong interest, and where there's interest, we'll put up sales," he said.

He's also looking forward to new efforts at completing restoration of the Rabideau CCC camp. "Stimulus funds will be used," Morris explained, "and building foundations will be restored, new roofs put on several buildings, a septic system completed and an expanded garden planned. There'll be a lot of labor involved."

Most exciting, he indicated, is the possibility of utilizing the former Civilian Conservation Corps camp as a site for schools to compete in the development of solar energy facilities.

The Forest Service will do an environmental assessment of the 3,000 acre Kitchi area, looking at timber prospects, with a public comment period expected in the spring.

Morris said a wide range of activities will include woodcock improvement, and the regeneration of alder habitat in cooperation with the state DNR and other interested groups. "We're also looking at building a new bunkhouse for seasonal workers," he added.

A native of upstate New York, Morris began working with trees in high school. "I trimmed trees for Syracuse University," he said, moving to Montana where he was a seasonal forestry worker for several years while studying forestry management at Montana University.

He also studied fire management and worked for the state Division of Forestry 19 years. He spent three years with the Peace Corps in Ecuador, returning to Montana where he worked on the Helena National Forest. He recently spent time in Deer River as acting manager of the Forest Service there, and liked the area so much he applied for the position in Blackduck where he began work in early December.

"I was really excited to come here," he said, "because I think it's not only a great opportunity, it gives me a chance to get to know the people here. "This is a lot like the part of Montana where I worked, and the people here are much the same. They make a lot of use of forest land, for timber, for recreation all year round, and for places others can come and visit. They have a work ethic and a respect for the land which provides the natural resources giving many of them a living. The result is good stewardship and that's something we can all share."

Unmarried, Morris is looking forward to meeting with local groups as he settles in. This will include working with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa and the forest area in the reservation there. Office space in Blackduck is shared with Minnesota DNR personnel, and "we'll work together because we have so many common goals," he said.

Summing up, Morris says, "Cooperation all around is what counts, and that's what we're counting on."