Interim Kootenai supervisor promotes forest resiliency

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Cheryle Probert, interim Kootenai National Forest supervisor, said she is trying to build a more resilient forest, especially around local communities, during her time spent as supervisor. (Luke Hollister\The Western News)

Kootenai National Forest’s temporary supervisor is on track to sell roughly 78 million board feet of timber this season, with plans to salvage burned timber from last year’s fires, but mostly, she wants to get back to cutting green trees.

Cheryle Probert, interim Kootenai National Forest supervisor, said she is trying to build a more resilient forest, especially around local communities, during her time on the job.

The U.S. Forest Service will salvage the Tenmile Sterling project this year, she said, at a site roughly 20 miles southwest of Eureka.

Some of the other smaller sales will be salvages, but the rest of the work is shifting back into cutting green trees, she said.

Probert started as supervisor in mid-February, and she thinks she will be in the area until mid-June, when a full-time supervisor is hired.

Working with communities and getting things done on the ground has been going really well, she said. Probert’s primary long-term project is to help implement shared stewardship programs.

Stewardship programs are somewhat new to the Forest Service, she said. It is really about improving forest conditions, such as making forests healthier and less susceptible to fires through local involvement. The idea is to work with tribes, counties, partners, state agencies and other stakeholders to get their input on how work should be prioritized, she said.

Shared stewardships can translate into a lot for Lincoln County communities, she said.

“It’s kind of, just good government. We’re all working together,” Probert said.

She is also helping prepare for fire season. Temporary employees typically are hired sometime in June, and are trained for fire season, she said.

Right now, the Forest Service is training and bringing back some of its seasonal workers. The federal agency also is making sure to be as prepared as possible, within its capability and capacity for the coming fire season.

“We usually say that we’ll tell you what the fire season is going to be in October,” she said.

In order to be sure whoever follows Probert’s position can pick up where she left off, she is keeping a plan, including short-term, mid-term and long-term projects. It will leave some good tracks for the future supervisor, she said.

The goal is for everyone to have a good idea of where the Forest Service is headed and what their action plan is, she said. Probert is also taking notes and attempting to resolve as many issues as she can in order to help her successor.

“My strategy is to have things written down and have everybody rollin’ forward,” she said.

Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck said he could not be happier with Probert’s progress.

“She’s really setting the groundwork for the timber program,” he said.

Probert is a “very, very experienced” forest supervisor, he added. She is laying work out for everything across the board to move forward.

The county is really fortunate to have her because she already has a lot of work experience and understands how important of a role the Forest Service plays. Probert really “gets” local government, he said.

“I think it’ll be a pretty good handoff,” he said.

With a job announcement already out, Probert will be wrapping up her time in Libby within the next couple of months.

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