SEELEY LAKE – Rachael Feigley doesn’t have a chair yet, but files are already piling up on her desk at the Seeley Lake Ranger Station.

“I don’t officially start until next Monday,” the soon-to-be-new district ranger said Thursday during a break from moving into a new home.

Feigley is moving from Livingston, where she was a wildlife biologist in the Absaroka-Beartooth Zone, encompassing the Yellowstone, Gardiner and Beartooth ranger districts.

Feigley replaces Tim Love, who retired from the district ranger position after 20 years (and almost 40 in the U.S. Forest Service).

“For me, it’s all about learning and understanding and furthering the relationships Tim Love established so well,” Feigley said. “It’s going to take time to learn everybody’s interests, who’s on first, and what’s everybody’s role. I’m hoping to pick up where he left off, but I’m not the same type of person or leader that Tim was. I hope to honor all the work he did, but also bring a new flavor.”

The Seeley Lake Ranger Station sits in a remarkable spot. While the town of Seeley Lake sends hikers, boaters, snowmobilers, hunters, loggers and vacationers into the woods in all directions, the Lolo and Flathead national forests each administer about half the area. Seeley Lake is on the Lolo side.

It’s also the locus for some of the most innovative collaborative forest management partnerships in the nation, including the Blackfoot Challenge and Southwest Crown of the Continent Restoration Committee.

It will soon host an even larger effort, as the fledgling Blackfoot-Swan Restoration Initiative starts taking a landscape-wide look at management in the surrounding watersheds.

Feigley also comes at a time when the U.S. Forest Service is contemplating reduced budgets and resources to accomplish its many missions.

She said she’s already accustomed to that working on the east side of the Continental Divide, and is braced to make some careful choices and prioritization as she moves into the new post.

Feigley was born in Missoula and as a child spent many summers exploring the Seeley-Swan area. In returning, she comes with husband Pete Feigley, who is a private wildlife biology consultant. The couple have a dog, Ceiligh, and two cats: Pumpkin and Sweet Pea.

“We like to play bluegrass music, and I’m also looking forward to playing on the lake, backpacking, hunting, canoeing and cross-country skiing,” Feigley said. “I feel really honored to be in this position.”