The new year is marking a fresh chapter in the life of longtime Forest Public Affairs Officer Heidi Perry-McCourt, who retired at the end of the year after nearly 35 years with the U.S. Forest Service.
Perry-McCourt came to the Lassen National Forest in 2002. During her tenure on the Lassen, she established a multi-agency County Collaborative Fuels Treatment program. It was the first local memorandum of understanding in the nation for fuels management. She also coordinated the national fire plan grant program at the regional and forest levels, working with State and local partners to put millions of dollars to work in the north state.
As the Lassen County Resource Advisory Committee coordinator, Perry-McCourt supported continued research and implementation opportunities in resource management, ranging from native grass development for the reduction of noxious weeds to fuels treatment projects to help protect communities from fire.
The last year and half of her career, Perry-McCourt led another multi-agency and partner effort. She organized the ‘Wilderness Treasures’ event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and to highlight wilderness areas in northern California, which gave local students and communities an opportunity to learn more about these primitive areas in their own backyards.
Perry-McCourt left the Midwest a farmer’s daughter with dreams of growing trees, protecting what was left of the big ones, and managing the rest. She earned a degree in forestry from Humboldt State in her first years of working for the Forest Service. She said she soon realized that, much like herself, many western communities live and breathe their forests. She embraced rural development and public affairs with the goal of involving the community in natural resource management.
While on the Klamath National Forest, where she began her Forest Service career in 1980, she served as one of ten Adaptive Management Area coordinators under the Northwest Forest Plan, helping to expand community involvement and strategizing ways to recover after changes in the timber industry. She also planned the biomass-to-energy conference in Siskiyou County, which hosted presenters from across the nation who shared ideas for biomass options for fuels reduction alternatives.
Transitioning to smaller ventures, Perry-McCourt said she and husband Mike plan to put their enthusiasm for resource management to work on their own 80 acres. In retirement, she also has designs to pair natural resources values with the passions of local community members, such as the volunteers of Back Country Horsemen of California. With all her new-found free time, Perry-McCourt would like to explore as many wilderness areas as possible in the company of Mike and their four horses.
In the spirit of community involvement that Perry-McCourt embraces, you are invited to celebrate with her. A retirement party is planned for Saturday, February 7th, at the Lassen Ale Works in Susanville. The favor of an RSVP is requested. For more information, you may call the Lassen National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 530-257-2151.