Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Margee Haines

May 8th, 2018 at 8:30AM

Margee Haines
Margee Haines. Forest Service photo

Margee Haines grew up in a military family that moved up and down the East coast from Florida to Pennsylvania. Her parents finally settled in Williamsburg, Virginia when she was in middle school, and she still has a strong connection to the Chesapeake Bay area, including the rivers, creeks, and wetlands that feed into it. Her early connection to the natural world and her time as a Peace Corps volunteer eventually led her to become a natural resource specialist with the Forest Service. 

What do you do in the Forest Service and when did you start working here?

I’m a natural resource specialist with the Washington Office Cooperative Forestry staff, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Cooperative Forestry is a part of the agency works to sustain and restore private forests, which make up more than half of all forests in the US and provide public benefits like clean water and places to hike and explore. I began working for the Forest Service after graduate school almost 15 years ago, starting with the Office of International Programs and then moving to Cooperative Forestry. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in some amazing places like Santa Fe, New Mexico and Asheville, North Carolina.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I work across four of our Cooperative Forestry Programs (Forest Legacy, Forest Stewardship, Community Forest and Open Space Conservation and Landscape Scale Restoration) so I’m always working on different projects and programs. One day I might write up a blog post about a recently completed Forest Legacy project that’s permanently conserved longleaf pine forests in Georgia and the next day I’m working with a graphic designer on an infographic about the public benefits of well-managed private forests. It’s always changing, and there’s always something new to learn. I also really enjoy the people side of my job; we work with a lot of inspiring and dedicated people around the country both within and outside the agency.

Margee enjoys spending time outdoors with her family. Photo by James Melonas.
Margee enjoys spending time outdoors with her family. Photo by James Melonas.

How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?

When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, I worked in a rural and arid part of the country that had experienced deforestation and drought. I saw firsthand the connection between the environment and people’s livelihoods and wellbeing, and the difference access to clean water and productive soils for farming can make. I completed my service knowing I wanted to pursue a career in natural resources that also focused on the human dimension of land and resource conservation. After the Peace Corps, I went to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment and then began working for the Forest Service. The mission of the Forest Service and its multiple-use mandate was and remains a perfect fit for my interests and background.

Describe a recent or upcoming project or one that you’re currently working on.

Over the past six months I’ve spent a lot of time developing communications strategies and tools for sharing the work of the agency’s Cooperative Forestry program with those who can most benefit from the services the program offers. Part of this initiative has included updating our national program web pages. It’s been fun to think about ways to share the work we do and why it matters with the public, and to highlight the inspiring people and places we work with through blogs and other mediums.

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

The Forest Service’s mission is pretty amazing. I’d like the public to see the work we do as relevant to their daily lives; from the water we drink to the places where we hike and explore. And to understand how critical it is to steward the public lands that belong to all of us for the next generation.

Margee hiking with her son in Wyoming on a family trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Photo by James Melonas.
Margee hiking with her son in Wyoming on a family trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Photo by James Melonas.

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

There are so many different types of jobs and opportunities with the Forest Service, such as working with communities to sustain urban forests, restoring watersheds that supply drinking water, and helping people access the forest for hiking and fishing. These types of jobs accommodate so many different interests and skills, and they’re located all over the country from cities to small towns.   

Who or what inspired you growing up?

We traveled a lot as a family, both around the US and overseas, and my parents instilled in me a love of different cultures, food, customs and languages. This inspired me to embrace change and constantly try new things and experiences.

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

I like to spend time with my family, especially doing anything outdoors like hiking, camping, or just digging in the dirt or playing in a creek with our son. Now that my husband and I have a little boy, it’s such a joy to watch him develop his own connections with nature. We recently moved back to New Mexico, and there’s no end to beautiful places to explore. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which are part of the Santa Fe National Forest, are just a short drive from town where we can ski and snowshoe in the winter and hike and camp in the summer.