Angeles National Forest gets new boss

The U.S. Forest Service has selected Thomas Contreras to be supervisor for the Angeles National Forest. He has been serving in that position on an interim basis for several months.

Contreras has worked for the Forest Service since 1976, and previously served as supervisor of the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California.

“I welcome the opportunity to manage one of the most heavily used urban forests within the nation,” Contreras said in a statement.

Angeles National Forest recently reopened campgrounds and more than 100 miles of hiking trails after months of rehabilitation following the massive Station fire, which scorched wide swaths of landscape. Nurturing the forest back to health is expected to take years.

“I know there will be challenges ahead for us, but given those challenges, we also have amazing opportunities,” said Contreras, who began his Forest Service career at Ashley National Forest in Utah.

He has worked at nine national forests, including as a specialist in regional winter sports and legal affairs.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who has been critical of the Forest Service’s initial response to the Station fire in 2009, said in a statement that given Contreras’ experience, he was “well-prepared” to head up the Angeles National Forest.

Schiff also said he hoped Contreras would push to increase the agency’s fire response capabilities.

“I hope [Contreras’] first order of business will be to help prompt the [U.S. Forest Service] leadership to issue long-overdue revisions to its policy against acquiring the capacity to do nighttime flights,” Schiff said. He added that with August nearly past, the agency was “about to miss yet another promised deadline.”

Schiff and other lawmakers convened meetings last year calling on the Forest Service to tap the resources of other agencies for nighttime aerial firefighting before the start of the fire season, which begins in October.

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