Forest Service ‘conductor’ to retire

Sep 26, 2016

After 40 years working for the U.S. Forest Service, Martha Moran is retiring. Aspen Public Radio’s Elizabeth Stewart-Severy spent a day at Maroon Lake last week with the recreation planner and has this profile.

Martha Moran’s official title is recreation staff supervisor, but she has been many things: environmental educator, campground builder, complaint taker, toilet cleaner, demolition worker, mountain rescuer, snowcat driver, ski patrol, two-time cancer survivor and the best man at a friend’s wedding.

But she probably said it best: “I feel like my job, I’m the conductor of an orchestra. So, for me it’s all year round, I feel like da da da dum …”

It’s a snowy afternoon at Maroon Lake, during what Moran calls “all hands on deck operations.” This is high season at Maroon Bells.

Moran is responsible for recreation and safety. She oversees an area the size of Rhode Island, including 464 miles of trails. She makes sure everyone is happy and safe, especially when a moose wanders through the meadow next to Maroon Lake.

“Key thing is to stay 100 yards away,” Moran instructed a group of hikers from Fort Collins, before telling a few stories about her time working in their area.

Moran is in her element when she is in nature, talking to people. With an easy optimism and quick smile, she laughs and connects with everyone she meets.  

In her 40 years with the Forest Service, Moran is quick to deflect any successes to working with others and building partnerships. She said the enduring focus for her has been in educating people about stewardship of our public lands. Her colleagues said that, above all else — even her focus on safety — Moran has taught them to deal well with challenging visitors.

Moran pointed to many successes as she strolled around Maroon Lake, but there is at least one project that she hasn’t quite seen through to fruition.  

“I was hoping before I go, I really wanted to see Conundrum in a limited use entry system,” Moran said.

The permitting system is headed for public comment in the next several months, while Moran celebrates a big year, which marks her 60th birthday, 40th year with the Forest Service and her 30th wedding anniversary. She explained her next steps with characteristic exuberance.

“My cheer is 60, 40, 30!” she said. “Hut, hike, bike, raft, kayak, ski on! Camp on!”

After celebrating and taking a stab at a few items on her four-page list of things she’d like to do, she said she’ll be back working with partners, volunteering her time for the forest.