Jim Hubbard, Colorado State forester, announced this week that he has accepted a position in Washington, D.C., as director of the Office of Wildland Fire Coordination with the U.S. Department of the Interior beginning in November.
Hubbard’s departure from the Colorado State Forest Service, a Colorado State University agency, comes after 35 years with the organization. His new position will build upon his distinguished career as a leader in forestry and wildland fire policy. He will guide and oversee the implementation of national forest fire prevention and mitigation.
Hubbard has served as Colorado State forester, or director of the Colorado State Forest Service, since 1984, and he has been a forester in Colorado for his entire career, including working in forests and as an administrator.
"Jim Hubbard has done an outstanding job protecting our forests here in Colorado, and I’m confident that he’ll continue his good work at the national level for the Department of the Interior," said Gov. Bill Owens.
As director of the Office of Wildland Fire Coordination, Hubbard will work with the department’s five resource management bureaus to implement the National Fire Plan and promote partnerships with communities and stakeholders. The National Fire Plan was developed in August 2000, following an historic fire season, to help the nation respond to severe forest fires and to protect life, property and natural resources. The plan outlines five areas of focus: firefighting; rehabilitating land after a fire; reducing fuel, or dead, dry or dying timber; assisting communities; and accountability for forest fire mitigation and prevention.
During his tenure in Colorado, Hubbard’s work has put him at the forefront of forest fire mitigation and prevention. Throughout his long career, Hubbard has managed battles against some of the nation’s largest forest fires, including the Hayman fire in 2002, which covered nearly 140,000 acres southwest of Denver.
Colorado State Forest Service fire division programs directly affect more than 25 million acres of private and state land. Its fire programs are administered by 17 Colorado State Forest Service offices located around the state. In Colorado, the state forest service coordinates with federal, state and county agencies to fight forest fires, and trains and equips about 450 volunteer fire departments in the state.
"Jim had the difficult task of heading up the Colorado State Forest Service during the summer of 2002 – a summer that brought Colorado our worst wildfire season in recorded history," said Russ George, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. "He handled the everyday and the long-term consequences of the devastating fires like the professional that he is. Throughout that crisis period, and whenever he faced crisis or controversy, he was unflinching in his dedication to his job and to the State of Colorado – a picture of competence. I have been impressed with Jim’s ability to tackle the issues that come with Colorado’s forests – issues that invoke passion from all involved – with a professionalism that has earned him the respect of colleagues throughout the industry."
As state forester, Hubbard oversaw 135 full-time employees, 17 field offices across the state, eight million acres of private and state forest including 71,000 acres of the Colorado State Forest west of Fort Collins as well as monitoring forest conditions on 14 million acres of federal land. He managed forest fire prevention, the extinguishment of forest fires in the state, programs to protect and treat forests from disease and insect damage, tree nurseries, and forest stewardship and environmental education efforts through the state office. During Hubbard’s tenure with the CSFS, the organization provided 50 million seedling trees to landowners to encourage stewardship and conservation.
"Jim has devoted more than three decades to the Colorado State Forest Service," said Marc Johnson, vice provost for Agriculture and Outreach at Colorado State. "State foresters from other states and executives with the U.S. Forest Service often tell me that Colorado has the best state forester in the nation. Jim is a true public servant who develops capabilities and resources to provide Colorado citizens with safe and healthy forests and excellent conservation education. He has done a great job for Coloradoans, and I know he will continue to represent Western natural resource values in Washington, D.C."
After several recent forest fire seasons threatening areas in the wildland-urban interface, or regions of forested land with residential neighborhoods near or among the forests, Hubbard led the effort to identify high-risk areas in Colorado where severe forest fires might be expected because of forest conditions. This effort includes analysis of live fuel, or trees that are older and more prone to burn because trees typically dry as they age, and measures to help prevent the intensity of possible fires in the area. Multiple forests in the state are 150 years old with fuel moisture levels that poise forest fire threats.
Hubbard also held several positions appointed by the Colorado governor, including chairing or serving on numerous natural resources committees such as the Wildland-Urban Interface Fire working group in 2001 as well as the Governor’s Conference on Forest Health in 1998.
In addition, Hubbard has chaired the Council of Western State Foresters and served on numerous federal and national committees and councils. He also led the establishment of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, a Denver-based group that facilitates collaboration and coordination among environmental education programs for adults, children and professionals to improve the effectiveness of all programs.
Hubbard said he began his long-term enthusiasm for forests as a teenager, growing up in a rural eastern Kansas community, where he enjoyed being in the woods, exploring new territory and working the land. He believes that our environment is dynamic, and that keeping all of the pieces intact can meet many objectives. Hubbard’s philosophy is one that embraces learning about interactions within biological systems to understand how to sustain life.
"Forestry is a lifestyle as much as it is a job," he said. "It teaches us to respect natural systems. This is a calling in which dedicated conservation-minded individuals are the norm – people who would help out in any situation – and the lasting relationships I’ve formed with others in this career have reached beyond the job."
"I have enjoyed the challenges of this position and finding potential within those challenges," said Hubbard. "My career has allowed me to help build an organization of dedicated professionals who also thrive on finding solutions to environmental issues facing our forests today.
"Whether those challenges are dealing with insects, diseases and fires that disturb our forests; supporting forest vigor while protecting life, property and biological diversity; teaching children about interactions within our environment to help them understand how to sustain life, instead of teaching them what to think of our environment; and finding ways to value and manage our urban forests from the plains to the mountain communities, I have enjoyed the opportunities that I’ve had to learn. And the learning continues, this time in a different place and with a new challenge that has potential."
Hubbard grew up in Neodesha, Kansas, and graduated from Colorado State University in 1969 with a degree in forest management. He and his wife, Cindy, have three daughters.