Arlene Perea’s family has a long-standing history of working for the USDA Forest Service. In fact, her grandfather was a fire lookout back in the 1930’s and 40’s. As a child, Arlene knew she wanted to work for the Forest Service. However, she took a few other jobs before finding her way back. After graduating from college with a Range Science degree she went to work for the Albuquerque BioPark then became a school teacher before starting her job at Cibola National Forest Mountainair Ranger District.
What do you do in the Forest Service and what is your favorite part of your job?
I’m a Recreation Technician overseeing the recreation program on the Mountainair Ranger District. My favorite part of the job is the fact that I frequently have to remind myself when I’m out in the field that I am actually getting paid to be out there.
Where did you grow up?
Torreon, NM at the foot of the Manzano Mountains.
Who or what inspired you growing up?
My parents and grandparents were my inspiration. Their love and appreciation for the outdoors and nature taught me everything. All of their work ethics showed me that with hard work, anything was truly possible.
What do you like to do for fun on your free time?
I love spending time with my partner, my family and my godson Lucas and goddaughter Jayde. This can be at any family events or following Jayde around the state for livestock shows, basketball games and track/cross-country meets.
What is your highest personal and professional achievement?
In 2017 I was named New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts Outstanding Conservationist. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to visit some amazing places around the county by being involved in Incident Management, as a public information officer. The most impressive place being Alaska.
How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?
My family’s history with the Forest Service was directly responsible for getting me where I am now. I keep a picture of my grandpa Juan on my bulletin board in my office. It was taken in 1941 looking through a fire finder up on Capilla Peak Lookout. My mom tells stories of her and my grandma packing groceries up to my grandpa via horseback and pack stock. The picture reminds me every day why I’m here.
My dad was also a huge influence on my career. He commuted every day for 25 years to the Sandia Ranger District where he was an engine captain. He was also part of huge projects such as the construction of the La Luz Trail and many other trails on the district. He eventually got to come closer to home and finish his last 8 years as Fire Management Officer on the Mountainair Ranger District. All of this with barely a 7th grade education. He, along with my mom, who was the postmaster in Torreon for almost 25 years, before retiring, taught me respect, hard work and dedication. They made sure that my brothers, sisters and I were very involved in school, athletics, 4-H and FFA growing up but these activities never gave us an excuse to let schoolwork lapse. Getting us into college was top priority for them.
Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project that you’re currently working on.
Just like most employees in the Forest Service, I’m currently working on several projects. A big one was finishing clean-up of an old, decommissioned campground on the west side of the Manzano Mountains. Now that this is complete, we will be looking at relocating the Trigo/Salas Trailhead in the same area to provide better access to Manzano Mountain west side visitors.
How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
I’d like the public to perceive the work we do as cooperative. I think we work really hard to involve the public, especially our local land grant communities. As a land grant heir myself, it is important that they know that they have a voice in what we do and that we are listening to their opinions.
What are your future career goals?
I love working for the Forest Service but more importantly, I love working in the Manzano Mountains where I was born and raised. If opportunities are afforded to me on my home district, that’s great; however, I’m not looking to move to move up. I’m right where I want to be, home.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?
You will never regret it. The Forest Service has given me opportunities to do things and visit places that I could never have imagined. I’ve gotten to work with people around the country but in the end, it has allowed me to serve the people I love most by staying close to home.