By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun
CAMPTON — White Mountain National Forest Supervisor Tom Wagner will be stepping down from his post overseeing the nearly 800,000-acre forest in New Hampshire and Maine on Sept. 1.
“I cannot begin to describe what a privilege it has been to work with you and all the partners who care about this spectacular landscape,” Wagner wrote in an email to his leadership team, staff, and retired colleagues Wednesday afternoon. ”I look forward to working — and having some fun — over the next couple of months to help the transition to new leadership and close out whatever work I can before getting ready for my daughter’s wedding. ... Thank you for your support each and every day!” he said.
Deciding to retire was not an easy decision to make, but he said he knew it was time to start the next journey in his life and to make way for a new forest supervisor on the White Mountain National Forest.
Wagner explained the email that on his way to a refresher meeting for forest firefighters recently, he realized it had been 41 years ago when he’d sat through his first fire training session as a temporary employee working for the Bureau of Land Management in Battle Mountain, Nevada.
He filed his retirement papers with a plan to finish his work as a U.S. Forest Service employee on Sept. 1, 2017. Wagner indicated that he might consider accepting other career challenges. His wife, Joan, plans to continue teaching in the Plymouth public schools (SAU 48).
Wagner has headed up the White Mountain National Forest for 15 years, starting in 2002.
Before then, in 2001, he filled a “detail” as a temporary supervisor that stretched from what was to have been a four month stint to nine months and then asked to fill the post permanently. For a short time, however, he returned to his post of deputy supervisor of the Superior National Forest in Minnesota.
When asked on Wednesday morning about the highlights of his tenure, Wagner replied, that at the top of the list is his appreciation of the quality of the U.S. Forest Service employees attracted to the White Mountain National Forest with whom he has worked, including those who have taken leadership roles at other U.S. Forest Service sites.
“WMNF employees are hard working and have very innovative ideas,” the supervisor said. “There’s no need to motivate them; they’re self-motivated.”
He also praised the outstanding leadership qualities of the state’s conservation community, including the so-called Tilton Diner group, and of its elected officials at local, state and federal levels, from select boards to members of the Congressional delegation, plus appointed employees, agencies and staffs.
“There’s a great desire here for people to work together, to sit down and listen to each other and to then find common ground,” Wagner said. “On the whole, people understand the challenges of making decisions about public land. I’ve been here long enough to have developed a lot of relationships, which I greatly value.”
Specific highlights on the White Mountain National Forest over the last 15 years, he said, include: the 2005 approval of the Forest Plan, following a lengthy process; constructing the White Mountain National Forest headquarters in Campton and consolidating the Pemigewassett Ranger District offices there; some “win-win” land swaps, including at Jericho State Park in Berlin and Mittersill at Franconia; the development of town forests, including those in Randolph and Jefferson and in Albany; adding some 15,000 acres to the White Mountain National Forest, mostly smaller parcels and in-holdings; and establishing dependable timber harvests of some 13 million board feet a year.
“Although short of the Forest Plan goal, dependability is important. It was good to see so many logs from the WMNF during last month’s N.H. Timberland Owners Association’s annual meeting tour of the White Mountain Lumber Company in Berlin,” he said.
Wagner and his wife raised three now-adult children: a daughter and two sons. They’re also proud grandparents of a 2-year-old grandson.