By Shannon Mullane
Herald Staff Writer
San Juan National Forest representatives announced Wednesday they have filled the district ranger position for the Columbine Ranger District.
James Simino, formerly a district ranger in Washington, will oversee the Columbine Ranger District, one of three districts in the San Juan National Forest. The last district ranger left in November 2018, and substitute rangers have filled in to help with the transition. The opening has been advertised nationally since April, and Simino starts June 22.
As district ranger, Simino will oversee recreation, fire, wildlife and timber staff officers who work with field personnel. As part of that, he will work on environmental documents, oversee and approve upcoming timber sales, approve campground openings and closures and coordinate between departments during wildfires, according to Denise Alonzo, spokeswoman for the San Juan National Forest.
Kara Chadwick, San Juan National Forest supervisor, was one of the people responsible for filling the position. The committee chose Simino out of nine final interviewees and many more candidates, according to Chadwick.
“We had a grassroots effort on the Hermosa special management area,” she said. “They all had a voice in how that area was managed, and I was looking for someone who really embraced that.”
Simino’s experience and collaborative ability stood out to Chadwick. Simino has been a district ranger twice. He accepted the position for the first time in 2013 on the Tusayan Ranger District in the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. He moved to Washington in 2016 as the Entiat district ranger, and most recently was the deputy forest supervisor on the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests for four months.
Simino graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania in 1996. He started his career with the Bureau of Land Management in Eugene, Oregon, and worked as a fisheries biologist in the Pacific Northwest.
“One of the things I was looking for was being inclusive with partners in our community,” Chadwick said. “I think he has a strong foundation for bringing people together towards a common goal.”