David Schmid has been named as the new regional forester for the Alaska region by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Schmid replaces Beth Pendleton in overseeing management of the more than 22 million acres of National Forest System lands in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

David Schmid has been named as the new regional forester for the Alaska region by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Schmid replaces Beth Pendleton in overseeing management of the more than 22 million acres of National Forest System lands in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

One forester, 22 million acres of forest

New forester talks Roadless Rule, goals for Alaska forests

Dave Schmid is ready to move out of the Juneau Hotel.

For eight months, Schmid has been the acting regional forester for the Alaska Region of the U.S. National Forest Service. Though he’s been treating it like a long-term job, it wasn’t officially permanent until this November. A Nov. 30 press release announced that he was taking over the post full-time.

“I think the employees in the region and the external community leaders, how much do you really invest in someone that’s got an ‘acting’ in front of their title? I tried to break through that a lot with folks,” Schmid said. “I think that just helps with the discussion, knowing that I’ll be here for a while.”

Schmid, 57, replaces Beth Pendleton in the position and now oversees 22 million acres of forest in Southeast and Southcentral. Pendleton retired earlier this year after working as the regional forester for eight years and for a total of 30 years for the Forest Service.

Schmid has worked in Alaska for 23 years, working as a fisheries and watershed program leader on the Chugach National Forest and as a district ranger on the Tongass National Forest in Southeast.

He described the Tongass as a place “where national politics and everything play out on a daily basis.” When he worked as a district ranger in Thorne Bay in the late 1990s, the federal government canceled contracts with Ketchikan Pulp Mill workers and he had to deal with the fallout.

With national government again getting involved in Alaska’s forests, Schmid said he feels prepared to handle it.

When Congress passed the 2001 Roadless Rule — which blocks construction of new roads on millions of acres of the Tongass — Schmid was working in Alaska. Now, as state and federal officials are working to create an Alaska-specific rule, Schmid is right in the middle of it.

Most of the process so far has been collecting public input, he said. The Forest Service got more than 144,000 comments, Public Affairs Specialist Dru Fenster said. Now, Schmid said, he and his colleagues are taking those into consideration and developing a list of options.

“What we’re developing right now is a range of alternatives, and that will reflect everything from no action to an exemption from the rule,” Schmid said. “It’s bookended on both ends with some alternatives in between.”

He said they should have an Environmental Impact Statement by next summer laying out the environmental effects that changing the Roadless Rule would have. The deadline to have the whole process finished is the summer of 2020, which Schmid said is “an aggressive timeline.”

Schmid said he feels prepared to meet those deadlines and work with the state, the federal government and tribal governments to find the best solution for the state’s forests.

[USDA Sec. Perdue: Logging, other Southeast industries not ‘mutually exclusive’]

Though the Roadless Rule is the hot-button issue at the moment, Schmid said he has a number of other goals for his time as regional forester.

Chiefly among those goals is creating a better work environment. In mid-November, Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen testified in front of a Congressional panel and pledged to address reports of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination among Forest Service employees over the years. Schmid said he and his colleagues are taking those allegations seriously and are working to find solutions.

Secondly, Schmid said he’d like to make more of an effort to work with local communities to make sure manage young-growth forest and improve forest conditions as a whole.

Third, he said he wants to improve customer service. He said he’s heard feedback requesting better communication and easier processes for those looking to work in the forests. Schmid said he hopes to make it easier for people to contact the people they need to contact at the Forest Service.

“We’ve got this kind of wall of bureaucracy out there,” Schmid said.

Schmid said this is his last stop before retirement. He isn’t looking to jump to another job. Like so many transplanted Alaskans, Schmid said he and his wife came up to Alaska for a summer and decided they wanted to stay.

He worked for a time in Montana, but knew he wanted to come back to the Last Frontier.

“I fell in love with Alaska and I fell in love with the landscapes, the lifestyle, the culture,” Schmid said. “I lived in rural Alaska most of that time and we raised our daughter in that environment. It’s a special place for me.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

More in News

President Joe Biden speaks during a reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, celebrating Greek Independence Day. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
Biden won’t veto Republican-led bill ending COVID emergency

Republicans celebrated the turn of events Wednesday.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, March 30, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Robert DeMaine, principal cellist of the L.A. Philharmonic, is scheduled to perform Dvorak’s Cello Concerto during a pair of concerts this weekend by the Juneau Symphony. (Courtesy Photo/ Daniel Lippitt)
Say cello to the guest artist: Symphony performance features L.A. Philharmonic’s principal cellist

Concert will include Dvořák’s Cello Concerto among other selections.

Moby the Mobile Greenhouse is a traveling greenhouse project of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Since 2016, Moby has helped jumpstart communities of growers in communities from Kake and Hoonah, to Pelican–where Moby is currently being utilized. (Courtesy Photo / Lione Clare)
Resilient Peoples & Place: Traditional food fair and farmers summit represent breadth of Southeast Alaska’s food system

Southeast is energized for a new season of cultivating and harvesting a bounty of fresh local food.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
State Trooper convicted of attempted sexual abuse of a minor

KENAI — Vance Peronto, formerly an Alaska State Trooper based in Soldotna,… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Wednesday, March 29, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

An otter sleeps on the ice near an open channel (Courtesy Photo / Jos Bakker)
On the Trails: Spring comes slowly

As I await more and bigger signs of spring, there have been good things to see along the trails.

State Sen. Bert Stedman, center, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, presides over a committee hearing Thursday. The committee on Monday approved an $8.4 million fast-track supplemental budget to address staff shortages in processing food stamps, public defenders and legal advocates for vulnerable residents. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Bill with funds to address food stamps backlog goes to governor

Legislature gives near-unanimous approval to hiring extra staff to fix months-long backlog

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire
From left to right, Carlee Simon, Frank Hauser and Thom Peck pose for a photo on Tuesday at Thunder Mountain High School after the Juneau School Board hosted a public forum in which Simon, Hauser and Peck were given an opportunity to answer questions as the three finalists being considered for the Juneau School District superintendent position.
Superintendent finalists field questions

Forum held ahead of Wednesday’s special school board meeting.

Most Read