New chief in the forest

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Six months after his predecessor left amid controversy, Tom Quinn took the helm Tuesday of the Stanislaus National Forest.

He replaces Ben del Villar, who was transferred last summer to a desk job at the Forest Service's regional headquarters in Vallejo.

Del Villar's departure ended a troubled term capped by a Forest Service regional review of Stanislaus operations that said "forest leadership was perceived to be weak and ineffective."

Issued in mid-2001, the report cited numerous management problems affecting both forest officials and forest users.

During del Villar's four-year tenure, loggers, environmental groups and homeowners were agitated by his actions or inactions on timber sales and wildfire fuel reduction, and recreational forest users and area homeowners were at odds with del Villar over off-highway-vehicle policies and enforcement.

The report also said relations between administration and visitors needed significant improvement.

"There are issues I'm inheriting that need to be addressed," Quinn said.

" ? I want to break down the 'we-they' stuff. ? I want to try to generate enthusiasm for the national forest."

Given the forest's recent history, Quinn, 47, said his top priorities are communication and open relationships between interest groups and forest staff.

He's hoping to speak with as many people and organizations as he can and strengthen his knowledge of issues and projects on the land.

Some of those issues are similar to ones he has faced in other forests:

On the Olympic National Forest in Washington, Quinn worked in one of the largest timber-producing regions in the national forest system.

He spent part of his time there from 1987 through 1991 as an acting district ranger, working on salmon preservation, water quality and Native American tribal relationships.

The Union Democrat
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