This month, we are pleased to feature Matt McCombs, State Forester & Director of the Colorado State Forest Service.

What was your first position in the field of forestry?

Like some of my colleagues I am not a traditionally trained forester but acquired my expertise in the field after serving roughly 12 years as a line officer in the USDA Forest Service working across three regions where I planned, authorized, and executed forest management actions of every type and complexity. That said, I often tell the story that my first foray into forestry was when my dad and I planted 23 trees in our backyard over 40 years ago in the suburbs of Denver. I still feel great pride driving by every once in a while and seeing them tall, strong, and serving so many vital roles for the current owners and the larger community. 

How long have you been in your role?

I’ve been on the job just over 3 months.

What do you enjoy most about being a Council of Western State Foresters (CWSF) member?

So far it’s been the people. I value deeply the insights and support staff have provided as I’ve stood myself up in this new role and the instant connectivity the organization provided between me and my fellow western state foresters which is proving invaluable. 

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

Colorado’s issues aren’t exactly emerging in the field of forest management, more so fully realized. Much like my fellow western states the challenges of pervasive drought, explosive population growth, and increasing wildfire frequency and intensity have been with us for some time. What is emerging is how we’re responding. Advances in collaboration, data analysis, and prioritization were well on their way to painting a clear picture of where we should go big together. What was missing were the resources sufficient to the problem. With the federal infrastructure bill and some significant boosts in state funding we’re now in a place to scale up in ways we’ve only been able to talk and dream about till now. It’s an exciting, historic moment in forest management in this country and in Colorado, what a time to be a state forester!

What is your favorite tree?

I’d have to say, I’ve always been taken with the big, old, fire-scarred ponderosa standing firm and alone in a well-established grass understory. That said, after 4 years in NC, the simple, elegant, reliable redbud, which is just getting ready to burst, is a close second.