USFS selects new Administrator for the Pacific Northwest Trail

by Partnership for the National Trails System, adapted from news release by Meckenzie Helmandollar, Trail Specialist, U.S. Forest Service

Becky Blanchard

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has selected Becky Blanchard to be the lead Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNT) Trail Administrator in 2019, and she is loving the challenge. 

The PNT is a 1,200-plus-mile linear landscape that spans from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean and comprises three States, and land managed by two USFS regions, three national parks, the Bureau of Land Management, and several Tribes. “The trail isn’t as well-known as some of the other more established and popular long-distance trails, but it inspires a lot of passion among those who know and have experienced it,” Becky said about the trail. 

Becky started working on the PNT six years ago as the Planning and Partnerships Specialist, a position now held by Brye Lefler. “It was a really exciting position to be in,” she said. “At that time, we were starting up the trail advisory council. I had some great mentors that connected me to the national scenic and historic trails community in the Forest Service, the broader national trails community, and our partner trail association. It’s a special group and, fortunately for me, they are generous in sharing their knowledge.”

The Forest Service works closely with Pacific Northwest Trail Association Executive Director Jeff Kish and the PNTA staff. “It’s been great to have Becky back working on the PNT, and continuing to strengthen our public-private partnership to manage and improve this really special trail corridor,” said Kish. 

Other partners include Dr. Jennifer Thomsen and her colleagues and students at the University of Montana, who are monitoring visitor use on sections of the PNT. The PNT travels through three national parks and a National Historic Reserve, seven national forests, BLM lands, and through or near more than a dozen communities across Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Land managers across the PNT steward the trail and surrounding landscapes and resources.

Becky was the Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Program Manager for the USFS’s Pacific Northwest Region from 2016 to 2019. Before joining the USFS, she was a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow in the Office of Marine Conservation at the State Department and taught anthropology classes. She has a bachelor of arts degree from Stanford and a master of arts degree from the University of Florida in environmental anthropology. “My studies focused on community-based natural resource management and adaptive management with work on protected areas, water, and fisheries,” she said about her educational background. 

Her highlights in the position so far have been experiences on the trail. “The ‘Wilderness Coast’ section of the PNT in Olympic National Park is one of the unique opportunities the PNT adds to the National Trails System,” she said. “Hiking by moonlight near the low tide at 2 a.m. is an unforgettable experience.”

Becky and her husband live in Portland, OR with their toddler. At home, she enjoys gardening, music, books, and time with friends and family.

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.