Name: Theresa “Terrie” Benavidez Jain
Position: Research Forester, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Best known for: Jain is examining how to limit the negative impact of fires on our national forests.
In her studies, she looks at how fires affect plants, alter the flow of carbon and nutrients in ecosystems and affect the potential for weeds to establish or increase. This research contributes to improved conservation, the restoration of areas that have burned and the appropriate ecological use of fires.
If vegetation is manipulated in particular ways, Jain said, forests can have a better post-wildfire outcome “where all the trees are not killed, soils are unharmed, and habitat for wildlife is enhanced.” This work is growing increasingly important, with about 50 percent of the Forest Service’s budget consumed by fighting fires and dealing with their impact.
She also searches for ways to minimize soil erosion and determine how natural and man-made activities shape the forest ecosystem.
She works with forest managers, landowners and the public to develop and implement new management strategies that are ecologically sound, socially acceptable and economically viable.
Government service: Her Forest Service career began in high school when she spent two summers with the agency’s Youth Conservation Corps. After college, she was hired by the Forest Service in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, as a forester trainee. Jain began working for the Rocky Mountain Research Station in 1982 as a forestry technician, then as a forester and since 2001 as a research forester.
Motivation for service: As a child, Jain loved the outdoors and going fishing and camping with her family, and she pursued adventures associated with the outdoors.
“In 1979, the Forest Service was increasing the diversity of people working for the agency. I am Hispanic, a woman, and this made me extremely competitive for a forestry job. The rest is history,” she said.
Biggest challenge: Forest management is becoming much more complex with multiple objectives involving wildlife habitat, fuels, climate change, carbon sequestration, restoration, sustainability and resilience across large landscapes.
“Addressing these questions takes time and effort, and it can be a challenge to produce solid science in a timely manner that addresses the rapid demands of today’s management needs.”
Quote: “The greatest compliment I receive is when forest managers or citizens come to me and say you taught me something and you are making a difference in the future of our forests. Only then do I know I am on the right track.”
For a full profile, go to The Fed Page at washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-government.