This month, we are pleased to feature Brian Cottam, State Forester and Director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.

What was your first position in the field of forestry?

A graduate internship while at Utah State University turned into my first forestry position as Director of the Southern Utah Forest Products Association. SUFPA was an incorporated cooperative comprised of the loggers, small sawmill owners, and value-added wood products businesses that remained in central and southern Utah in the mid- to late-1990s. SUFPA’s intent was to use cooperative principles and organization to maintain adequate and dependable work on and wood supply from surrounding national forest lands, and to identify and develop value-added products and markets.

How long have you been in your role?

Nearly four years as State Forester. I’ve been with the Division since February 2013, first serving as Deputy Director, then as Director/State Forester since December 2013.

What do you enjoy most about being a CWSF member?

Two things:

  1. Learning from other State Foresters—CWSF members are true leaders and I learn an immense amount from them whenever we’re together, not just about forestry and fire issues but also organizational management, leadership, and numerous other skills I try to bring back to and take advantage of here in Utah. CWSF is an extraordinary group to be associated with.
  2. Working with the outstanding CWSF staff!

What do you see to be the emerging issues in your state?

In partnership with the Legislature, Utah League of Cities & Towns, Utah Association of Counties, and Utah Fire Chiefs’ Association, we’ve recently completely rewritten our wildfire statutes and instituted a new fire management system in Utah. The new policy clarifies the State’s relationship with county and city government with regards to fire management and how suppression is paid for (and who pays); it also codifies local government’s responsibility for reducing the risk of wildfire in their jurisdiction by annually implementing measurable prevention, preparedness, and mitigation actions in order to participate in the new system. Successfully implementing this progressive policy is one of our priorities here in Utah.

What is your favorite tree?

Ponderosa pine