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Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Works to Conserve Fishers, Civil War History

Posted by Beverly Carroll, Office of Communication, U.S. Forest Service in Forestry
Feb 21, 2017
U.S. Forest Service biologist Betsy Howell is highlighted in Faces of the Forest, a special feature by the agency. (Courtesy Betsy Howell)
U.S. Forest Service biologist Betsy Howell is highlighted in Faces of the Forest, a special feature by the agency. (Courtesy Betsy Howell)

Betsy Howell has a professional and personal interest in conserving two diverse parts of U.S. history.

As a wildlife biologist on the Olympic National Forest in Washington State she focuses part of her work on the history and future of the fisher, a member of the weasel family considered threatened and endangered.

As a Civil War re-enactor and author, she works to preserve an integral part of our history as a nation.

“As a district biologist, I survey for different wildlife species including bald eagles, amphibians, fishers and martens,” she said. “I’m fortunate that a fair bit of my job involves field work, and I continue to be involved in remote camera survey work though the technology has changed tremendously since 1991.”

One of her most important projects is with the Olympic Peninsula Fisher Reintroduction Project, a multi-agency effort to reintroduce the fisher, a small member of the mustelid, or weasel, family.

“The work began after researchers had determined that fishers had become extirpated, that is locally extinct, on the peninsula, due to over trapping and habitat removal,” Howell said. “Through the use of remote cameras, we are now monitoring to see if they have become a self-sustaining population. We’re also partnering with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, a non-profit organization out of Bozeman, Mont., to determine if the Pacific marten, another mustelid, has also become extirpated from the peninsula.”

When not setting up remote cameras, Howell spends her spare time, usually before work and on weekends, writing essays on travel and natural history. She published a memoir about her father and great-great-grandfather and their lives as soldiers.

“My great-great-grandfather, James Heath, served as a private in the Union Army and kept journals during that time from 1862-1865,” she said. “My father, born in 1920, actually knew this man when he was a little boy and when he grew older was given James’ journals. Now they’re mine.”

The memoir became about their war experiences and how it impacted her life. But she found couldn’t leave the Civil War behind, so she started a novel.

“It has taken six years. Again, it’s hard to leave behind characters I’ve become so fond of, so now I’m working on a second novel told from the point of view of a minor character from the first novel,” she said.

Howell is one of a number of Forest Service employees highlighted in Faces of the Forest, a feature that introduces the public to the people, places and professions in the agency.

Betsy Howell started her career in 1986 as a spotted owl surveyor on the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. After graduation, she moved to the Siskiyou National Forest in Southwest Oregon and became a permanent employee. During her early career, Howell took a leave of absence to work for the Peace Corps. (FS photo)
Betsy Howell started her career in 1986 as a spotted owl surveyor on the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. After graduation, she moved to the Siskiyou National Forest in Southwest Oregon and became a permanent employee. During her early career, Howell took a leave of absence to work for the Peace Corps. (FS photo)
Category/Topic: Forestry

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Comments

Jessica Baker AKA Tenderfoot
Dec 07, 2018

I completed the Pacific Crest Trail this year, 2018, and beforehand came across a very cute little critter on the trail. I clicked my tongue at it and it began to follow me. I decided to scare it away for its own safety but beforehand took its picture. As I go over all my photos I see the picture and search online as to what it is. It's a marten. I came across an article in the Seattle Times writing about Betsy Howell's work in the Olympics. I wanted to let Betsy know of my finding. The marten was smaller than a cat. Super cute and rather clean looking, maybe even cleaner than I was at the time. Anyway, my Google account marked the location as near the Yakima Indian reservation, which makes sense because the photo afterwards shows the Yakima reservation sign seen on the pct. It was north of Packwood and south of Cispus Pass, as i have a photo of the wooden Cispus Pass sign along the pct after the marten photo and photos from around the Coyote Trail junction beforehand. I'm also sure it was after White Pass and the many blueberry areas. I remember an older man and his truck on a dirt road. He was giving hikers some Gatorade. The marten was spotted after a low area where there were ponds and mosquitoes. From there the PCT gradually climbed in elevation. Please inform Betsy Howell and if she would like the photo.