Allegheny National Forest Supervisor Erin Connelly will leave her post at the end of April to head out west.
Connelly has accepted a position as the forest supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel national forests and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands in Pueblo, Colo.
She will start there on May 5; her last day in the ANF office will be April 23.
Connelly said she has gained a lot through her experience on the ANF and loves the region, but is also excited to take on a new challenge and be nearer to her family.
"Even though it's typical for folks of my level to stay in a position for three to five years, the opportunity was there and I chose to accept it," Connelly said. "It's not that I wanted to leave the Allegheny. I love it here, but this was just the timing of it.
"I do have the personal benefit that it gets me closer to my parents, my father who turns 92 this year and my mother who turns 82," Connelly added.
Connelly began her stint as ANF supervisor in February 2012.
"I have loved it here. This was my first assignment east of the Mississippi, and I've really enjoyed the place, the engagement of the community and the interest here in the national forest," Connelly said. "The people have just been great. The employees here, like many other places in the Forest Service, are very dedicated and passionate about the work they do.
"This was my first full-fledged forest supervisor position, so it will always hold a special spot in my heart," Connelly added. "If the timing would have been different I would have stayed here longer for sure."
Connelly said her time at the ANF has given her a greater understanding of how to work with people on a variety of issues especially mineral rights.
"This is a very unique forest with the outstanding reserved mineral rights," Connelly noted. "I've learned a lot in that particular area. While there are a lot of commonalties between forests, there are also some unique differences."
Connelly said the national forests and grasslands she will supervise in Colorado comprise three million acres, whereas the ANF is just a little over half a million acres. The public land in Colorado has a total of eight sub-unit offices and the ANF has only two. "While it is a lateral position, it is a much larger unit," Connelly explained.
She also pointed out that in the West, one of the biggest issues is wildfires, where the eastern forests like the ANF are battling invasive pests like the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Gypsy Moth and Emerald Ash Borer.
"There are threats wherever you go, and it's going to take all of us to ensure that we continue to have national forests in the future and that they are sustainable," Connelly said. "I appreciate all the work and input from folks here and those who helped us with restoration. While we may not always agree on how the forest should be managed, it's good to see that there are a lot of people who care about it."
Connelly said her intent with the position locally was to open lines of communication and engage with the community on issues, as well as take advantage of opportunities to improve the forest and, of course, "make a difference."
Connelly hopes she was successful in her efforts and that she has done all she could to set things up for the next person to take on the post to be able to pick up where she left off.
ANF spokesperson Kathy Mohney said an interim replacement has not yet been chosen but someone will take on the position of acting supervisor by the time Connelly leaves.
"It may take months for a permanent replacement to be appointed," Mohney said, explaining the regional office is in Milwaukee, Wis., and the selection has to ultimately be approved at the Washington office.
"It's been very rewarding and I hope I was able to make a difference here," Connelly said. "I will miss it, but it's time to move on."