Q-and-A with Nancy Gibson, Lake Tahoe’s new U.S. Forest Service supervisor
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Not long after unpacking, Nancy Gibson jumped straight into her job as the new Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit supervisor.
While Gibson will oversee and make critical decisions regarding the 150,000 acres of national forest land in the Lake Tahoe Basin, she’ll also be hiking, biking and exploring the trails, forests and beaches of her new home.
So who is the new head of one of the region’s biggest agencies and South Lake Tahoe’s newest resident? An excerpt of a Q-and-A with Nancy Gibson is below.
Tahoe Daily Tribune: How long have you been doing forest service work?
Nancy Gibson: I have been with the Forest Service for 33 years. I moved to the Klamath National Forest in Yreka, Calif., in 1992. I moved to the Six Rivers National Forest in 2008 about 10 days before the big Northern California fires.
TDT: How did you begin?
NG: Pretty old school actually. Before the office of personnel management was created, it was something called the civil service commission. I took a test under the civil service commission. It was sponsored by the U.S. Post Office or something like that. I lived in Missoula, Mont. I went down, took a test and got hired on.
TDT: What are the responsibilities of your new position?
NG: In general this is a line officer position. They are the positions that typically are the decision makers of the agency. I say that with the big “D.” Lots of people make decisions all the time, but (for me) it comes to what we sign our name to or decisions that hold us accountable to how we expend our money, if we are following our program of work, or those kinds of things.
TDT: The challenges?
NG: What we want to do is meet the intent of Congress, because that is who pays our paycheck. Congress appropriates dollars. They give to us a broad range of expectations in terms of what we do for natural resources management. We personalize that to our geographic area because we know that across the country every national forest is a little different.
The challenge is meshing what congressional intent is with the local needs. We want to have a broad opportunity to have community interface, partnership and collaboration. All those, they’re not just buzz words. They really are what we try to do to meet the expectations that Congress entrusts us with through appropriations and that on-the-ground benefit for the natural resource.
TDT: And the benefits?
NG: Oh golly. Well, personally, it’s been a long career goal of mine to get into line. I’ve been, as I said, with the Forest Service for 33 years, I’ve sat in a lot of different chairs. I’ve done a lot of different work. And I think what I’m keenly excited about is that I’m at a position that now weaves it all together.
My background is predominantly administrative and so that’s why I can be pretty versant on annual appropriations, human resources, how you get the quality staffing to do the work that needs to be done to fulfill the mission. Those kinds of things have been a part of my typical career path. Bringing those together to meet the natural resources responsibilities, to look at things like ecological restoration, to work with a very skilled set of knowledge, skills and abilities that our work force has, blending those skills with our annual program of work, making sure that all of that comes together in a way that is responsive, not only to Congress but also to the public. Those things all come together here and that’s what makes me really excited about this position.
TDT: What is your experience in the Lake Tahoe area?
NG: Actually, I had a four-month detail back, I believe, it was November 2006 to March 2007 as a deputy forest supervisor. Of course it was the winter months, and I really didn’t get out much. I served in the office next door under Terri Marceron. I had an absolute fabulous experience with that. As a person sort of charts out their next step, I sort of had this planted in the back of my mind for that length of time.
TDT: What about this location drew you to it?
NG: Lots of things. My passion for ecological restoration really shines in this particular unit. As much as I love the beach, and I’m still enamored by the beach, I really miss the mountains. Coming to a place as spectacular as Lake Tahoe, I know it’s all about the lake, but for me it’s about the mountains too. The high quality of staff here. There’s lots in terms of technical specialists, people with a scientific learning that really are helping with the mission we have in ecological restoration. That’s really a strong draw for me.
TDT: Will you have time to enjoy Tahoe’s recreational activities?
NG: Given that I’ve been here about three days, I’ve mostly just seen the inside of a moving van. I’m renting south of town here. My habit is that I’ll take my weekends to explore. I’m privileged that I can do that during the week too. But I do like to explore on my own time.
I love to fish. I love to hike. Though I’ve never owned a pair of snowshoes, I really want to get a pair. There’s not much skiing on the coast. I think my poor cross-country skis will sort of date myself. I do look forward to getting very involved with the recreational pursuits here.
I do love to get out on my bike. I’m hoping that Pioneer Trail clears up better because I could just ride in. I may work up to something like that. I don’t want to break any bones my first year.
TDT: How will your work impact South Lake Tahoe?
NG: I know what’s unique about Tahoe is, through the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, there’s actually legislated commitments on partnerships and collaboration. I respect that, and I think that’s a great thing.
I’d really like to see it on a personal level, not just something that’s legislated, but something we can work with as partners, as neighbors to make sure we keep this special place that’s Lake Tahoe in the minds of all of us.
As much as it’s intact with our mission, it’s something we do because we chose to live here.