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Wayfaring forester's glad to be back

But Ashland Ranger District chief Linda Duffy faces challenges after her long trip Down Under

ASHLAND ' After taking six months' leave of absence without pay to travel, Linda Duffy is back as head of the Ashland Ranger District.

Duffy, 43, who was appointed district ranger in January 1995, returned Dec. 29. She left July 1.

They say there is no place like home, well, that's true, she said. It's really nice to be back.

She and her husband, Tom Dew, a retired Rogue River National Forest employee, took an extended trip to the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia. They also traveled extensively in the United States.

Plans to work with aboriginal people in Australia on forestry-related issues during her sabbatical fell through, she said.

— Duffy began working for the agency nearly a quarter of a century ago, serving in the Rogue River and Siuslaw forests in a variety of jobs ranging from drafting to recreation. She said her first substantial break from work was refreshing.

She said she's ready to tackle the challenges facing the district, which covers about 100,000 acres.

Of course, a lot of the challenges are the same ones as when we left, said Duffy.

One is that we're dealing with the fact we're having to change our organization to meet the budget we have now. There were about 20 full-time employees when Duffy arrived in 1995. Because of budget cuts, there are now about 14.

Another is the proposal to expand the community-owned ski area on Mount Ashland, which is part of the district.

A final decision on that proposal, which has been publicly debated for more than a decade, is expected later this year.

A third challenge is the implementation of the Ashland watershed protection project to reduce hazardous fuels in that area, she noted.

But the work progressed in my absence ' the people here kept everything going very well, she said. John did a very fine job.

John Schuyler, who was the acting Ashland District ranger while Duffy was gone, has accepted a job as acting deputy forest supervisor for the Winema National Forest.

Born in Salem and raised in Corvallis, Duffy was 15 years old when she began working in the Forest Service as a participant in the now defunct Conservation Youth Program.

She initially learned drafting, then was hired out of high school full time at the Siuslaw forest headquarters in Corvallis.

Her next job took her to the forest's Oregon Dunes to help design a new interpretive office. That job, which lasted five years, resulted in her becoming a communications specialist, working with some 2 million annual visitors to the dunes.

In 1987, she became the spokeswoman for the Rogue River National Forest. She also has worked in managing minerals, lands and efforts to reduce fire hazards in the forest.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at