The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Ranger's career comes full circle


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Tom Malecek, new district ranger for the Seward Ranger District of the Chugach National Forest.

Tom Malecek gives the impression of a man who’s where he wants to be. That’s likely due to the fact that the new district ranger for the Seward Ranger District of the Chugach National Forest has been working his way back to Alaska for most of his career. Malecek says it couldn’t have worked out better if he’d planned it.

From an early age, the kid from a big city determined to get away to the woods. His parents encouraged him along more pedestrian lines. Perhaps he should consider being a lawyer or get into banking like his brother. However trips to the Ozarks and other park lands turned his intent into a career choice and college education in timber management.

After graduation, Malecek ended up in the Tongass National Forest in 1979, just about as far away from St. Louis as he could have imagined. It was just the challenge he’d been looking for to that point. He worked primarily for a time in timber management in the Tongass, either working with existing logging programs or in forests where development was being considered.

As Malecek says “I preferred to stay in the districts, and in doing that for timber management, I saw that there was so much more to resource management. While timber was great, it was more fulfilling to work with the whole spectrum. It took me several moves to get into a district ranger position.”

Since then, he’s been looking for the perfect spot to land. For a nine-year stretch it was as district ranger in the Rio Grande National Forest. However, that had to come to an end when he spotted an outreach posting for the position near Seward. Malecek says the Seward District is the smallest of three in the Chugach, but it offers a wide variety of challenges. The Kenai Peninsula is Alaska’s playground and a lot of game, timber, fire, interagency and user management issues go along with that.

Right off the bat, Malecek is gearing up to oversee a rewrite of the Chugach National Forest Plan. According to Malecek, the three-year process will be a sort of pilot forest program under new planning rules. He’s been in the run-up to forest plan rewrites, which the agency likes to see every 15 years or so. However Malecek has jumped in right in the middle of this one and has been focussed on getting up to speed since his Aug. 12 start date.

The three-year timeline begins with public meetings throughout all the communities bordering the CNF including Cooper Landing, Soldotna and Seward from Sept. 24-26. Malecek will be at the forums but is looking forward to his first shindig this week. He reckons that the Kenai River Cleanup which starts at Sportsman’s Landing in Cooper Landing at 7 a.m. Saturday will be a good opportunity to get into the middle of things with a lot of local CNF habitués.


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