After eight years of leading the Tahoe National Forest, Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn will retire at the end of this year. His career with the USDA Forest Service began 35 years ago and took him and his family to multiple forests across the United States.
Quinn grew up in New Jersey and his first job after college was as an urban forester and environmental specialist for the County of Essex in New Jersey. Pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Forest Management and Economics brought Tom and his future wife Sue west to the University of Idaho, where Tom also taught a class in natural resource economics while completing his degree. He later earned a Ph.D. from Michigan State University with a focus on forestry and natural resource management, policy, and economics. In 2008, Tom completed the Senior Executive Fellows Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Quinn’s career as a permanent employee with the Forest Service began in 1981 on the Malheur National Forest in Eastern Oregon, followed by a move to the Boise National Forest in Idaho. A subsequent move to the Olympic National Forest in Washington resulted in him serving in a variety of positions, including forest planning team leader, acting staff officer for fire, recreation and special uses, and district ranger on the Hood Canal Ranger District. The Quinn’s first son, Will, was born in Olympia.
In 1991 Quinn became the District Ranger of the Santa Catalina Ranger District on the Coronado National Forest. Six exciting and eventful years saw Tom bring about significant change on this incredibly busy and diverse district on the doorstep of the booming city of Tucson, Arizona. Many partnerships were developed and strengthened during Tom’s tenure, including creation of the Friends of Sabino Canyon, which is still operating as an award-winning Forest Service partner today. The District was recognized as national leader in volunteerism and partnerships. The Quinns’ second son, Michael, arrived toward the end of the family’s time in Tucson.
A move to beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, followed, with Quinn serving as forest staff officer overseeing programs in recreation, engineering, lands, minerals, cultural/archaeological resources, NEPA coordination and planning. During his time on the Santa Fe National Forest, he also served in an extended detail as deputy forest supervisor.
Washington D.C. beckoned and Quinn and his young family moved to Maryland where he commuted to the Forest Service National Headquarters. Working in the Programs and Legislation Branch of the Agency, he was engaged with a variety of policy issues, including serving as the national program leader for implementation of an important new law, “The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.” Quinn also served on a detail working for the Deputy Chief of the Agency as the budget coordinator for the National Forest System.
After three years in the big city, it was back to the rural West when Quinn was named as the Forest Supervisor for the Stanislaus National Forest in Sonora, California. A challenging and rewarding five years followed as the Forest addressed controversies over motorized and non-motorized use on roads and trails, the future of historic stone dams within the Emigrant Wilderness, and the need to increase the level of management on the vast timber stands of the Stanislaus, along with a wide range of other public land management challenges.
After Will graduated from Sonora High School and went on to UC Davis, Tom, Sue and Michael moved up the Sierra Nevada to their current home above Nevada City, where Tom became the forest supervisor for the Tahoe National Forest. The Tahoe is rightly known as a high-profile, year-round busy forest, with no shortage of resource issues and opportunities. He notes, “Working with our many partners to meet public demands and achieve ecological restoration objectives has made the time fly by. The workforce on the Tahoe is second to none. They are committed to quality public service and sound resource management, and it has been my honor and pleasure to serve as their forest supervisor for the past eight years. I will miss them greatly.” The eight-year period on the Tahoe is the longest time Tom and Sue have spent in one location since leaving New Jersey 38 years ago. “Considering the many beautiful and diverse areas of the country where we have had the pleasure to live, the Sierra Nevada and our local charming and historic communities have been a favorite,” said Quinn.
Quinn leaves big shoes to fill on the Tahoe National Forest. “Tom’s strong leadership is responsible for the Forest’s achievements in ecological restoration, supporting local communities and being a trusted partner in building resilience for nearly one million acres of forestland,” said Eli Ilano, deputy forest supervisor. “His friendship and knowledge will truly be missed by the employees of this forest.”
Quinn’s last day in the office will be December 31. With no immediate plans for returning to a formal job just yet, he plans to spend more time with his family, skiing, improving his golf game and enjoying the year-round outdoor recreation opportunities available in the Tahoe National Forest and Sierra Nevada Mountains.