Cynthia A. Lane (Forest Ranger)


Strike out on new challenges and opportunities we have yet to imagine.

From the time she was a young girl in Vermont, watching her grandfather boil down maple syrup, Cindy Lane yearned to go out West. That wish was solidified after her first family trip west as a 9-year-old when she announced to her parents that she was going to live in Montana. Later, while working in Vermont with the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), building/maintaining trails, creating
wildlife habitat, doing stream restoration, Cindy’s vision of what she would be doing in the West began to unfold.

“I LOVED it,” she says. “I spent five summers working in the YCC program, and it was probably the turning point in my life. The smell of the woods, the sounds, the sights . . . I became aware of a new calling—forestry—and, of course, the West.”

In 1982 she earned a B.S. in forest management at the University of Idaho while working in a U.S. Forest Service (U.S.F.S) cooperative education position. She’s remained with the agency ever since, even for a time in Montana.

Cindy’s forestry career has gone full-circle from its beginning in Wallace, specializing with silviculture/timber to her present position in the Clearwater National Forest supervisor’s office in Orofino as staff officer for vegetation stewardship. “It’s a new-fangled way of saying timber and silviculture plus!” she says. “Interesting how I made it back to where I started.”

In between, she spent 18 years as a forest ranger on the Lolo, Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests in a supervisory role she likes to compare to that of a school principal. “The specialists and people who work under a District Ranger are like teachers in a school,” she explains. “They may have specialties like soils or wildlife or hydrology just as a teacher may teach Spanish, math or music. The ranger would be similar to the principal . . .several rangers (principals) work for a forest supervisor (school superintendent) who oversees a Forest (school district).”

Unlike early rangers—men who spent most of their time in the woods and little time with people or paper—today’s rangers blend public relations with resource management and depend on advice from teams of specialists to make decisions. Women rangers are much more common. They represent diverse backgrounds. “When all is said and done, a ranger today must be able to connect to the people, understand and communicate,” she says. “They must also use common sense mixed with the spider web of laws, rules and science to make good land management decisions.”

The historic Fenn Ranger Station, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) on the Selway River in the Nez Perce National Forest, served as setting for Cindy’s introduction to life as a ranger. Three of her five children were born there. She has her share of tales to tell about combining rangerhood with motherhood.  The experience has enabled her to see another correlation.
“Having children as a district ranger allowed me to practice my tough love and negotiating skills
24-7,” she says. “I also learned that you need to allow people you care about to fail, because failing is such an important learning/growing opportunity,” she adds. “But allow them their dignity.” Her dual role involved constant multi-tasking for Cindy, but it also helped her children blend in comfortably with Forest Service life.

As somewhat of a pioneer, Cindy could fill a book with sagas of her early career challenges where women foresters/rangers were a novelty in a profession once dominated by men. “You could count on one hand the number of women district rangers in Region 1 (Montana and Northern Idaho),” she says. “We would get together once a year, share stories and strategies and just give overall encouragement to each other.”

Cindy now relies on her husband Bo, “a Forest Service guy,” for encouragement. They met through the agency where he worked as a smokejumper. “Being very secure in himself, he was able to gracefully let my career take the lead and provide outstanding support,” she says. “He knew what would be required of me in my work, and, as a team, we have made it work.”

In predicting the future role of U.S.F.S. district rangers, Cindy draws from her own experience of this ever-evolving vocation. “The agency is changing at a higher rate of speed,” she says, “It must to survive and stay relevant. My experiences will likely not be repeated by those who follow; rather they will strike out on new challenges and opportunities of which we have yet to imagine.”

Want to know more?

º U.S. Forest Service

º Information about the Clearwater National Forest

º Overview of Careers in the U.S. Forest Service overview.shtml

º Job Information for Students and Parents students.shtml

º Job Openings in the U.S. Forest Service