Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Mary K. Rasmussen

Office of Communication
July 1st, 2013 at 4:45PM

Mary K. Rasmussen loves the outdoors. If she could have her dream job, it would be on a pack string in the wilderness. She believes that nothing is more rewarding than being outside, viewing the wonderful outdoors and doing what you love. Rasmussen’s current job is as a Tribal liaison on the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan. Her career reflects how she has embraced those values.


How did you get to where you are today?A picture of Mary K. Rasmussen and a horse

Being flexible and taking advantage of opportunities. I was hired 26years ago through the co-op education program, now called Pathways, as a soil scientist trainee on the Ottawa National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Since then, I’ve travelled to many places and accomplished many things in my career.


Early in my career, I had an opportunity to work as a recreation planner on a forest plan amendment for the Ottawa’s Sylvania Wilderness to shift management of that area from a special recreation area to wilderness use as part of the forest’s multiple-use mission. I loved it. I became a Leave No Trace master educator to help people learn how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.


Eventually, I became the director of the Ottawa Visitor Center providing conservation education and interpretation for visitors. A fun project involved producing two videos. One covered the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps era and the forest’s multiple-use mission. Still very popular and shown daily at the center, it’s focused on inspiring people to get outdoors and enjoy all that the Ottawa offers. The other video provides an educational orientation to the Sylvania Wilderness and using Leave No Trace principles. I directed all the filming and editing with the contractor.


I also had the proud honor of helping to provide and host the 2001 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which the U.S. Forest Service provides to the nation every year from a national forest.

What other opportunities have you enjoyed?

Several work details as a public affairs officer on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests in South Carolina and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin provided great opportunities to serve and expand my skills. I’ve also trained and served on fire crews and in supervisory fire program positions while enjoying the opportunity to see many of our national forests across the country.


I volunteered to work on the Ottawa Forest Plan Revision covering wilderness and recreation issues and several other topics. As the revision process concluded, I learned of a tribal government liaison position, which I’ve held since 2007. I love it. It’s very different from forest planning. 

What do you like most about your current job?

I like the challenge of working with people, building relationships, working together with the tribes, assisting them in building lasting relationships with the Forest Service staff and leaders.   
I work for three forests – the Chequamegon-Nicolet, Ottawa, and the Hiawatha – which involves working with 15 Tribes. The forests realized a dedicated tribal liaison position would foster greater understanding and opportunities to work together. It was a smart move as I have seen how our relationships have grown and strengthened over the past seven years.


What haven’t you done that you wish you could have?

My dream job would be a wilderness ranger with a pack string – working and living outside all the time, especially in a place where there are no mosquitoes or black flies. My husband and I spent the last 15 years developing our own ranch and outdoor lifestyle in northern Wisconsin, and we ride our horses as much as possible. We’ve taken the horses out West to ride in the national forests and national parks and daydream about what it was like to experience this country in the early days of our agency.  


A picture of Mary K. Rasmussen and a Forest Service centennial saddle.

What is one thing few people might not know about you?

I am one of a very few people in the country that owns a Forest Service centennial saddle. During our Centennial in 2005, Western Heritage, our official merchandizing company, began producing a customized saddle for the Forest Service featuring a Centennial brass horn cap, conchos and customized stamping. Knowing my 25th year of service was coming up; I decided this was the one thing that would truly commemorate my career. It was a once-in-a lifetime purchase for me. My saddle now shows loving signs of wear from use but every time I’m riding my horse and look down at the horn cap and see the Forest Service shield it makes me proud.


Do you have any other hobbies besides being outside with your horses?

I currently live on a ranch and we raise Highland cattle, Angus steer, and various birds for their meat. I have a huge garden. You could say we have a passion for growing and producing our own food. 


What are you most proud of that you have accomplished during your 26 year-Forest Service journey?

It’s hard to name a specific thing, but I’d say my overall career. I don’t know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had the opportunities that I’ve had in the Forest Service  and making the people I’ve met and worked with  my extended family. Somehow I don’t think it wouldn’t have been this great. 



The Faces of the Forest is a project of the U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication to showcase the people, places and professions within our agency, which is responsible for 193 million acres of forests and grasslands in 44 states and territories. If you know someone you would like to have profiled here, send an email with the person's name, work location and a bit about to Faces of the Forest.