At age 60, with a 42-year career at the Forest Service behind him, a man might be tempted to retire.
But not Laurence Crabtree.
“I love this job,” he said.
The man who has been the deputy forest supervisor for the Plumas National Forest is now the new forest supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest, reporting to work July 29.
He wrapped up his work locally July 12 and took some time to reflect on his experience.
“It was a good two years for me,” he said. “There are wonderful people on this forest.”
Though his tenure on the Plumas was relatively short, he has worked in the north state for most of his career.
The Susanville area native has worked on the Lassen and Modoc National forests as well as in Nevada, but he has a special affinity for the Plumas and for Quincy.
“There are wonderful people on this forest and it’s easy to be part of this community,” he said.
On the Plumas, Crabtree became the go-to guy, overseeing travel management, timber harvest programs and fire, including the Chips Fire.
He is particularly proud of the relationships that were created and maintained while dealing with sometimes controversial matters.
“He was always willing to sit with the timber industry as well as the Plumas County Economic Recovery Committee and work with both groups to maintain and enhance the overall program of work to try and assist the community and the overall infrastructure,” said Bill Wickman, president of the recovery group. “We can only hope his replacement will bring the same level of understanding and expertise that Laurence provided.”
A search is on for Crabtree’s replacement. Asked what advice he would offer to his successor, Crabtree said, “You have to respect people’s opinions in this community, even when they aren’t in alignment with the Forest Service.”
Crabtree said he was surprised and humbled to be selected as the supervisor for the Eldorado, knowing that there were a number of applicants for the position.
Crabtree interviewed with Randy Moore, the regional forester, his executive assistant and three of his deputies, but the actual appointment came from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
When asked what he thought set him apart, Crabtree said, “Randy Moore told me I was the best person for the job.”
Leading his own forest has been a long-held dream of Crabtree’s and he is anxious to begin work.
He and his wife, Denice, are packing up and moving to Placerville, where he will oversee a forest that welcomes 2 million visitors a year. (The Plumas averages a half-million visitors annually.)
He said the biggest issue facing that forest is travel management, as well as reducing the forest understory.
Both forests suffer from a lack of biomass facilities to address the latter problem because it has proven to be financially infeasible.
“Biomass doesn’t pencil out, but if you factor in a $62 million Chips Fire, there could be a solution,” Crabtree said.
Though Crabtree is moving, he will still be working with some familiar faces.
Larry Bird, the supervisor of the Lassen National Forest, said, “Laurence has been a good neighbor to the Lassen for many years. I have always found him to embody the spirit of the Forest Service mission of ‘caring for the land and serving people’ in all of his dealings. In his new job as forest supervisor of the Eldorado, I will still have contact with Laurence, but will miss having him right next door.”
And his former boss, Plumas National Forest Supervisor Earl Ford, said, “Laurence has been a treasure to work with as deputy forest supervisor. I personally wish him and Denice well on the Eldorado, and look forward to a continued working relationship with Laurence as a fellow forest supervisor.”
Though Crabtree had been a little emotional as he talked about his time on the Plumas, he smiled broadly as he looked ahead.
“It’s a great time to be a leader in the agency,” he said.
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