A California native with considerable military and fire experience has been selected as the new Forest Supervisor for Los Padres National Forest. Robert Baird will soon be charged with leading the state's third largest forest, which extends from the L.A. metro area through Big Sur.
Baird, a native of Riverside, Calif., currently serves as a Deputy National Fire Director at the Forest Service's national headquarters in Washington, D.C. He spent 24 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Bob has an extensive background as a leader both in the military and in the fire organization," said Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore. "He is familiar with California and is a welcome addition to the Regional Leadership Team."
Baird will oversee efforts to protect and preserve the forest, including the protection of threatened and endangered plant and animal species, enhancement of watersheds, recreation, and designated wilderness, and promotion of the the forest's use as a "living laboratory" for ecological diversity and scientific research. He'll also have to deal with wildfires.
"As Los Padres is a forest at risk to potentially large-scale wildfires that take weeks to contain, fire management is a large part of the forest supervisor's job," forest spokesman Andrew Madsen said. "He [will] work with local fire cooperators, elected officials, and key stakeholders to ensure we are all prepared to work as one cohesive force to contain fires before they become destructive, especially in the wildland-urban interface."
Los Padres National Forest encompasses approximately 1.75 million acres, which includes one of California's most famous areas, Big Sur. From top to bottom, it stretches 220 miles, playing roles in a number of counties, including Santa Barbara and Ventura. The forest is home to 10 designated wilderness areas, accounting for one million acres and representing nearly a fifth of such protected land in the state.
Baird, who begins the post in July, will be based at the forest headquarters in Goleta near Santa Barbara. "There are many important challenges and opportunities ahead of us," he said, "and I'm eager to work collectively with the public and our partners to build consensus around these issues."