Quinn Carver doesn’t have a to-do list: He has a map.
“Every time I go out in the woods, I come back with a new project,” the new Seeley Lake District Ranger said on Friday. “I guess having more work than one can do in a given day is a good thing.”
The digital map covered with hot links keeps residents from Ovando to Seeley Lake apprised of the campground upgrades, road repairs, culvert reconstructions, timber projects, fuel treatments and other duties of the Forest Service outpost that oversees most of the acres in this popular bit of Montana. Carver took the district ranger post as interim duty during the federal government shutdown last winter, and is now the official line officer.
That meant appearances in both the Seeley Lake and Ovando Fourth of July parades on Thursday as well as lots of cups of coffee at meetings around the region. It’s also meant regular updates to the map he uses to structure his workload.
“I was first in the district in 2017 as an agency administrator during the Rice Ridge fire,” Carver said. “With the fatality and the blow-down in the campground and that fire, the community had been through a lot. We’re starting to open things back up and let people know the good things going on in the forest.”
The 2017 fire season took off with the death of a firefighter on the scene of a small fire that eventually merged into the 160,000-acre crisis known as Rice Ridge. Seeley Lake’s outer neighborhoods spent weeks directly threatened by the fire, and the town’s summer recreation industry was choked with smoke. Then a wind event knocked down trees all over the popular Big Larch Campground, forcing its closure until this summer.
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“A lot of the stuff I’m working on is capitalizing on the good work Rachel did prior to me getting here,” Carver said, referring to previous District Ranger Rachel Feigley. “It’s been a good handoff as far as the projects I’m working on.”
Feigley held the post for four years after the retirement of Tim Love, who was Seeley’s district ranger for 20 years. Carver served as a wildlife biologist on the Helena National Forest for his first permanent career posting in 1994.
Since then, he has spent the majority of his career in Montana along with some time spent working in Idaho and Alaska. Although Carver’s most recent posting was on the Kootenai National Forest as the Natural Resources Staff Officer, Carver will draw from his former experience as ranger of the Krassel District on the Payette National Forest in Idaho.
The Seeley district forms the hub of a busy recreation center for the Forest Service. It has many of the trailheads leading into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, although the interior just over its eastern mountains gets administered by the Spotted Bear Ranger District far to the northeast. It’s just south of popular Holland Lake, which is actually in the Swan Lake Ranger District headquartered in Bigfork. And the Missoula and Lincoln ranger districts each manage chunks of the popular Blackfoot River corridor that also touches the Seeley Lake Ranger District.
Carver said people coming to his recreation desk often see the staff there speed-dial the neighboring districts to get answers for their trail or travel questions. The Southwest Crown of the Continent collaborative working group has also overseen timber and fuels reduction projects that overlay multiple districts. That’s made blurring the map lines between offices a routine part of the job.
“It’s a natural fit for how we work on these things together,” Carver said. “That’s probably how we’re going to get things done in Seeley for the foreseeable future.”