Erik Taylor contends natural resource management is in his blood.
The stepson of a logger, Taylor grew up to appreciate the elements of nature that surrounded him.
”There’s this romantic notion of being in the woods for me,” Taylor said. “With that exposure, I was raised to be a good steward of the woods and trees and nature. It’s something I always knew I’d want to pursue a career in.”
And he did. Taylor was named District Ranger for the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands in May. But his experience in natural resources extends far beyond his placement to the local position.
In college, Taylor naturally gravitated to the natural resource management major.
He earned his undergraduate degree in plant science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1999 and master’s degree in urban forestry from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., in 2001.
After graduation, he worked with several agencies – including the Natural Resources Conservation Service as a soil conservationist, the State of Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry – before beginning his career with the USDA Forest Service.
“My professional career (in the Forest Service) started with a job as the outdoor recreation planner at the Huron-Manistee National Forest in northern Michigan,” Taylor said.
For two years, his job duties included managing the Au Sable National Wild and Scenic River and designing campgrounds, hill climbs and biking and hiking trails.
Taylor then took a position – a position he held for four-and-a-half years – as a Multicultural Workforce Strategic Initiative Liaison at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge.
“It’s a program to bring in diversity among forest service staff,” he said. “We go into colleges and recruit urban forestry undergraduate and graduate students and do what we can to facilitate their college experience and transition into a job with the Forest Service.”
He then worked for two years in the Job Corps, a free, residential program that helps underserved teenagers 16 to 24 years old earn a high school diploma or GED and learn a trade – including forestry technician, welding, carpentry, office assistant or auto mechanic. His positions within the program included deputy director at Pine Knot Job Corps Center in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky and acting director at Cass Job Corps Center in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in Arkansas.
Taylor then worked as an acting ranger then deputy district ranger of the Klamath National Forest’s Happy Camp Oak Knoll Ranger District in northern California.
As a deputy district ranger, Taylor managed recreation, hydrology, special-use permits, administrative operations, fisheries/biology, lands and mineral and archaeology. As an acting district ranger, he oversaw vegetation and fire.
“I’ve held a myriad of positions,” he said. “But my experience is mostly with timber resources and personnel/administrative matters. Here there are about 70 active oil and gas wells I’ll have to manage as well as an active recreation program – equestrian, lakes to fish and an active fire/prescribed burning program – to oversee. I look forward to that challenge.”
In addition to a change in duties, Taylor will have to adjust to a change of pace and scenery.
“I’m used to being in a really intense, really active environment,” he said. “Now I’m in a more urban area. I’m not used to this many people. In five minutes, I’ve seen all the cars (on U.S. 81/287, where the Grasslands offices are located) I saw in a month working in California.”
But regardless of his placement, Taylor continues to do what he grew to appreciate at such a young age, and it’s nothing from which he intends to deviate.
“I plan on being here a while,” he said. “I bleed green.”