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New ranger in town

One of Kingsbury's first tasks was Rainbow gathering

— Jamie Kingsbury barely had time to unpack before she heard the news.

On June 12, her first day as the U.S. Forest Service’s district ranger for the Hahn’s Peak-Bears Ears District, Kingsbury learned the annual gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light was coming to national forest land near Big Red Park in North Routt County.

During the next several weeks, the event brought an estimated 15,000 participants and 3,100 vehicles to a roughly 4-square-mile patch of land 35 miles north of Steamboat Springs.



Forest Service law enforcement officers from across the country were brought in to assist a National Incident Management Team.

Colorado State Patrol troopers, county officials and Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies also assisted.



In total, law enforcement officers issued more than 580 citations to Rainbow participants.

The Forest Service did not issue a special-use permit for the large gathering, primarily because of the high risk of wildfire in the area, Forest Service officials said.

“It was quite a first month,” Kingsbury said Thursday. “I didn’t get much sleep.”

Thinking back on her crash-course in handling large events, Kingsbury, 44, threw her head back and heaved a sigh.

Then, she smiled.

“It was interesting to come to a community and meet all these folks in a crisis,” she said. “It brings you together, and in a lot of ways, it was kind of fun. My confidence is so high in us being able to work together. We’re going to eventually have a wildfire, there’s no doubt about it, and I’m confident about our ability to handle that.”

Kingsbury praised the work and collaboration of numerous officials during the Rainbow gathering, including staff from Yampa Valley Medical Center and the county emergency management department, directed by Chuck Vale.

“I’ll be forever grateful,” she said.

Now that she has a little time to breathe, the bright-eyed, brown-haired Kingsbury said she couldn’t be happier with her new job.

A Texas native, she has worked for the Forest Service since 1987 after earning a forestry degree at Colorado State University.

She has worked in several forest districts in southern and western Colorado.

Most recently, she spent four years as the Guadalupe District Ranger in the Lincoln National Forest near Carlsbad, N.M.

That district is primarily drought-ridden desert, she said.

Driving over Rabbit Ears Pass, Kingsbury saw a color she wasn’t used to — green.

“I almost had to pull over,” she said. “It took my breath away.”

She soon learned, though, that beetle kill is turning green to red in much of the Hahn’s Peak-Bears Ears district, especially in North Routt.

She is working to start projects with homeowners in the Steamboat Lake area to reduce wildfire risk by thinning dead or infested trees on public and private lands.

Kingsbury said she welcomes the challenges and called working in Routt County the culmination of her career.

“It’s taken me 19 years with the Forest Service to get to Steamboat,” Kingsbury said. “I’m happy to have finally arrived.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com


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