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Embracing a Forestry Career: Balancing Tradition and Innovation

July 2, 2024

Embracing a Forestry Career: Balancing Tradition and Innovation

By Len Jagelski, Consulting Utility Forester 3

Some say a person is conditioned by their experiences. In my case, my family’s 140-year-old homestead, the Sheriff Ranch, located in Grand County, Colo., has strongly influenced me. Though I was born and raised in the Bay Area of California, I often visited the Ranch over the years, which set my interest in the outdoors and environment at an early age.

The Sheriff Ranch, a tribute to my mother’s lineage, lies in a valley just below Highway 40, two miles east of the Hot Sulphur Springs. Its history stems back to 1884 and the Ranch’s registered brand-Bar Double S is still known to be the oldest registered brand in the State of Colorado.

I attended the University of California, Berkeley, where I earned a degree in forestry with an emphasis in watershed management.

After college, I traveled to Colorado and worked two seasons of timber stand improvement, running a chainsaw, and helping run the crew in Walden, Colo. — not far from the Sheriff Ranch.

When I could, I would head down to the Ranch where the Colorado River runs through it and learn to fly fish. I still enjoy doing it to this day and serve on the board of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a national non-profit dedicated to protecting cold water fisheries and the environment.

Since then, I’ve raised a son and daughter. My son serves in the Navy Special Forces and my daughter earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2023. I often remind my kids it’s not just what you have, but what you do with it that counts.


I ended up in this industry because wanted something I could believe in. I wanted to contribute to a team that is working to fight the good fight.

Seeing the recent fires and fights over water has piqued my interest in integrated vegetation management (IVM). How can we manage the utility forest in a compatible, sustainable way? Are the herbicides used to reduce regrowth sustainable, and pollinator-friendly? Are we working in an environmentally responsible way, so the noxious weed programs are not negatively impacting the waterways? These are just a few questions I consistently seek answers to.

The opportunity to work in this field and address the issues we face today — all the while doing it here, in Grand County on my family’s homestead — seems like it was an opportunity made for me.

I graduated with a forestry degree and spent 10 years in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. I have worked in North Park, the South West, and now Middle Park in Colorado.

I am an ISA Certified Arborist and Certified Utility Specialist and have proudly completed the integrated vegetation management course by ACRT Services Integrated Vegetation Management Specialist Rich Hendler. I’m continuing to add to my skill set and am a lifelong learner.

ACRT Staff

ACRT is the largest independent utility consulting company in the U.S. and empowers utilities to proactively manage vegetation across their entire rights-of-way. We consistently stay on top of and share relevant industry content with our employees and customers around the country.