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|Ojai Valley News Interview with
The LPNF Ojai District Ranger
Ojai Forest Ranger Weighs In
The U.S. Forest Service has a new district ranger. Sue Exline, who came from the Sierra National Forest near Clovis to accept the position, has had a couple of months to settle in. The OVN sat down with Exline to get an insight into what she will be bringing to the Forest Service Ojai District, and to discuss some of the issues of the Los Padres National Forest.
OVN: Being new to the area, how do you familiarize yourself with this
Exline: The first month I really tried getting to know the district and the different issues that we face here. Iíve been meeting with different folks and agencies like the Sheriffís Department, Ventura County Fire Department, and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. Iíve been hearing some of the concerns and seeing how everyone operates. My goal in the first six months is to understand the district. Iím not going to make any knee-jerk reactions.
OVN: Have you found any similarities between the issues here and your
Exline: One thing Iíve seen is people who live near a National Forest have a real passion for it. The public also has a lot of expectations as to what the land is used for. Most people see it as a place for recreation.
OVN: There have been issues recently with recreation areas like Cherry
Creek and other target shooting locations relating to vandalism and littering.
What are some of the things people are doing that damage the Los Padres?
Exline: I visited Cherry Creek recently and it was a real eye-opener for me. Signs have been shot up and people leave their trash behind. People are using things like TVs and computers for targets and then leaving everything. Weíre also seeing bathrooms and other buildings being shot up in some areas. Itís very disappointing.
OVN: How does the Forest Service deal with these issues?
Exline: In 2005 the (Forest Service) came up with a land management plan that would involve making shooting legal only in designated areas. Weíll go in and do an environmental analysis to determine whether to open or close certain areas to shooting. We want people to realize that they need to have some personal responsibility when they are in the National Forest.
OVN: The Adventure Pass that people purchase through the Forest Service
allows them access to certain areas of the Los Padres. There has been some
controversy over this through the years. What is your view on the
Exline: The Adventure Pass seems to have gone through many evolutions and the Forest Service has listened to the people and their concerns. In most areas, you no longer need a pass just to park within the forest. I believe that the passes are quite a bargain though. There are many facilities for people to use, and we most likely couldnít have those without selling the pass. We donít really hear the concerns about it that the district has heard in the past.
OVN: Recreation isnít the only thing happening in the Los Padres. What
are some of the challenges that you face when it comes to industry or commerce?
Exline: I think thereís a real concern with Highway 33. Itís become a very popular highway. Iíve heard about some issues with the trucks. The only thing on my mind with them is safety. We talked to a superintendent at one of the mines. We have to stay engaged in insuring that the companies that operate up there know we have concerns and that we all have to work together to make the forest safe.
OVN: You also work with some of the other local agencies like the Fire
Department. What are some of the common goals that are shared?
Exline: Fire protection is something that we all see as a priority that we need to work together on. We need to have these partnerships to handle the problem areas of the forest and the district. We have to be aggressive in responding with fire fighting, and the public expects us all to work together.
OVN: Any final thoughts on the Ojai District?
Exline: All of the challenges we face never take away from our employees who are always trying to make a difference. Everyone here really seems to be passionate about what they do. They all really care. Ojai is a great place, and I want to figure out how to tap into peopleís connection with the land and their passion for the environment. My goal is to really get more involved in the community.