It is with great sadness that the Forest Service acknowledges the passing of Geraldine “Geri” Bergen, a trailblazing former forest supervisor in Region 5 and lifelong advocate for forest and public lands.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1930, Bergen married in 1949 and moved with her husband to Seattle, Washington, where she raised her three children. Following her divorce she moved with her kids to Reno, Nevada, where she enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno while setting her sights on the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Forestry.
In 1960 she became only the second woman to attend the school’s compulsory summer camp. She distinguished herself at the forestry school, earning numerous awards and scholarships for academic excellence and began working for the Forest Service part-time at the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. In 1964 she completed her master’s degree in botany.
Bergen landed her first professional forester position as the Public Information Officer in Women’s Activities at the Region 5 headquarters in 1967. In 1972, she earned a new position as the region’s environmental coordinator, tasked with developing a regional policy for implementing the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act. From the regional office, in 1978 she moved to the field as the Tahoe National Forest deputy forest supervisor—and the first woman in the agency to hold a line officer position. In 1985, she was promoted to Tahoe forest supervisor, another landmark achievement. Five years later, Bergen moved to national headquarters to serve as deputy director of the environmental coordination staff.
Following her retirement in 1994, Bergen returned to California, where she continued to volunteer with numerous local, state and national conservation organizations. In 2011 the Nevada County Land Trust honored her with the William Nickerl Award for a lifetime of achievement in conservation leadership.
Bergen passed away Oct. 12. She is survived by three children, grandchildren and one great-grandchild as well as several nieces and nephews.