“Jeff has the kind of knowledge and attitude that we welcome on this forest,” said Forest Supervisor George Bain in a news release. “With his hands-on management style, years of experience and passion for the resource, Jeff is well suited for this position and will be a great addition to our leadership team.”
Gardner drove to Chatsworth from his previous assignment as the Manti-la-Sal National Forest Sanpete District Ranger in Utah and spent Monday on the job settling into his new office.
“I’m hoping to get out some this week and meet some folks over the next couple of weeks,” Gardner said. “This is a beautiful area here. There’s lot of nice places all around, and people get out more and are able to see a lot of the areas.”
Gardner is no stranger to the Southeast region. Before moving to Utah, Gardner was a biologist on the Shoal Creek Ranger District of the Talladega National Forest in Alabama. Prior to that, the Jacksonville State University graduate was an ecologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Originally from Crossville, Ala., he enjoys mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, fishing and spending time with his yellow labs, Champ and Maebelle.
Gardner said he has not had an opportunity to review the management plan for the Conasauga District of the Chattahoochee National Forest, which includes Floyd County and popular areas like the Pocket and Keown Falls Recreation areas north of Rome.
“Here, I believe recreation management would be a big part of this area,” Gardner said. “We have reduced budgets, it seems like, every year, so that’s one of the biggest challenges to provide the services the public would like to see.”
The district offers a plethora of recreational opportunities for campers, backpackers, hikers, equestrians, cyclists and off-highway vehicle enthusiasts. The Pinhoti and Benton MacKaye trails pass through the district.
Cattle and sheep grazing, along with water management issues, were among Gardner’s most pressing issues in Utah for the past three years.
The diverse Conasauga District ranges from the Cohutta Wilderness and headwaters of the Conasauga River to Johns Mountain and the Pocket Recreation Area in the northern neck of Floyd County.
“I am excited about working with the many groups and individuals that care deeply about our public lands,” said Gardner.