The supervisor of the White Mountain National Forest is stepping down.
Tom Wagner announced this week that he’s retiring at the beginning of September. He’s served in the role for 15 years, overseeing 800,000 acres of forest in New Hampshire and western Maine.
Wagner joined NHPR’s Morning Edition.
What led you to this decision to retire?
I have over 38 years of employment with the forest service across the country and I’m at a point in my life where there’s potentially other things to think about going to do, other opportunities. It just seemed like a good time for me to explore that and spend more time with my family.
What do you see are you major accomplishments?
One of our early accomplishments when I got here was the revision of our long-term plan, our 15-year plan that we’re required to do. We worked with numerous stakeholders, both within the state and from all over the country, that had interest in the forest and bringing them together with a comprehensive plan that was accepted. It wasn’t appealed or litigated, which is very unique when you’re managing 800,000 acres of public land, to have people willing to come to the table and have a good, long-range plan that we’ve been implementing now for over 10 years.
And you were able to manage some land swaps and actually add acreage to the forest.
Yes. Working with various partners: the Trust for Public Land, the Conservation Fund, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. We worked with all those groups, and willing land owners, to add on to the forest, including important public access points, watersheds, or wildlife habitats. Over my time here, we’ve probably acquired an additional 15,000 acres.
There’s the ongoing debate regarding the controversial Northern Pass project and how it would impact the area. Where do things stand in terms of the proposal and how much of it would actually impact the forest?
The original proposal was for 10 miles of overhead lines in an existing corridor, and so we’ve been working an Environmental Impact Statement with the Department of Energy that looked at that. And then we’ve looked at other alternatives. Since that time, the Northern Pass group has proposed burying the line along state highway 112 and 116. So we’re also looking at that alternative now as a possible way to mitigate some of the effects. And we’re expecting sometime this fall that we would be releasing a final Environmental Impact Study with the Department of Energy on that decision.
You have to sign off on that project going through the forest. So you’re hoping to do that by this fall?
Right, the forest supervisor is the responsible official for this. It would be a special use permit to cross the national forest, to construct and maintain a power line. I’m hoping that before I leave on Sept. 1, that decision is written and ready to be released.
What will be the biggest challenges for your replacement?
From an environmental standpoint, we see effects of the changing climate, with more severe storms, potentially less snow. There are invasive species, like Emerald Ash Borer and potential for Asian Longhorn Beetle which has been contained down in Massachusetts. So, invasive species as in our global economy, we move things across the world now. Some of those effects on the environment will always be a concern, and then balancing overall use of the forest. We have seen, as the economy has turned around in the last couple years, increased use and conflicts with things like parking and local roads, and then what effect the total number of recreation users are having on alpine areas.