Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Ben Lara

Office of Communication
June 5th, 2017 at 3:15PM

A photo of Ben Lara sledding with his family
Ben sledding with his family. (Photo credit: Lara Family Photos.)

Growing up in a small town, Ben Lara had to take a gravel road to get home from school and his nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away. But the town of his childhood, La Jara, Colorado, had a lot, literally, going for it because it’s surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest. This rural area, often referred to as La Valle de San Luis or the San Luis Valley, is an agricultural community with strong ties to the natural environment.   

Ben can’t exactly pinpoint when he decided he wanted to work for the U.S. Forest Service, but with wildlands all around him, and the fact that his Dad worked for the Agency, had a subtle but profound impact on his early life career choice when he took a job with the Forest Service on the Mammoth Lakes Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest as a Recreation Special Uses Permit Administrator. 

As a District Recreation and Lands Officer, what do you do in the Forest Service and what is your favorite part of your job?

I view my job as a facilitator for providing access to national forests. My favorite part of my job is to work with interested people and groups who have a lot of energy in helping manage their National Forests. I also really value time spent in the outdoors working with people from diverse backgrounds.     

Who or what inspired you growing up? 

My family has always been a strong inspiration for me. I have been very fortunate to grow up with an immediate and extended family that is loving, caring and passionate about where they came from. As a kid I spent a lot of time outdoors and playing organized sports like baseball, football & basketball.

What do you like to do for fun on your free time?

I have three kids, a three year-old and a set of twins that are just over a year. They keep me and my spouse, Catherine, very busy in our free time and I love every minute of it…well except for the sleepless nights of course! When not serving as a human jungle gym for my kids I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, skiing, rafting and working on cars. 

A photo of Ben Lara presenting to a Brazilian wildlands project team.
Ben presenting to a Brazilian wildlands project team. (Photo Credit: US Forest Service.)

What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

Currently, I think raising a happy and healthy family as my ongoing highest personal achievement. I take pride in showing off my kids and feel honored to have the tremendous responsibility of raising them. 

Professionally, it’s difficult to limit myself to one or two examples simply because during my career with the Forest Service I have had the opportunity to work in some amazingly beautiful places, including the states of California, Wyoming, Colorado and the countries of Honduras, Brazil and the Philippines. So I’ll point to two achievements I’m proud to say I was part of.

The first was just this past May when I, and another Forest Service colleague, facilitated a campsite and trail management workshop for folks managing Mt. Apo Natural Park in the Southern Philippines. Leaving this place, I felt like we had made a huge positive impact by helping them develop a long-term strategy for managing this special place.  

Secondly, in 2013, I had the awesome experience of hosting seven project area managers from Brazil. Over the course of one month we put on a Trails Together workshop that focused on trail stewardship techniques with an emphasis on partner and volunteer program development. This was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I’ve had while working for the Forest Service.  

How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?

I would like people to view the Forest Service as part of the community and an agency that is willing to listen and embrace feedback on how better to manage their public lands. In my eyes it is important for the public to feel like the work we do is relevant to their lives and that the benefits we deliver to the public are many. 

What are your future career goals?

I have never been one to identify a single type of position as my future career goal. Lifestyle and positive impact with regards to community service are most important for me. I have had the fortunate experience of working at the regional, forest and district levels and feel most productive working on a Ranger District right now. Right now I am looking for new and creative ways to grow my leadership skills.

A photo of Ben and Catherine riding a motorcycle
Ben and Catherine Lara. (Photo Credit: Lara family photos.)

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?

Working for the U.S. Forest Service is a very rewarding experience and I think our roles are ever changing. If you have an interest, I encourage people to reach out to an existing employee and learn about what they do and network, network, network!  Also, don’t assume that your interests, training and education can’t be valuable to the Agency just because it is not natural resource based. Change is constant within the Forest Service and tomorrow’s jobs will be different than today’s.