Six Rivers National Forest announced Wednesday that Merv George Jr. will serve as the new forest supervisor, becoming the first forest supervisor of Native American descent in the history of the Pacific Southwest Region.
As a graduate of Humboldt State University (1997) and Eureka High School (1991), George is also most likely the first local to hold Six Rivers’ top position.
“As a lifelong resident of the area and as the deputy forest supervisor for the last several years, Merv brings with him an unparalleled knowledge of the natural and cultural significance of the Six Rivers National Forest,” said Acting Forest Supervisor Mike Minton.
With his background in the Native American community, George said he hopes to be a “bridge of communication” between the agency and all the communities the forest serves, including the indigenous population.
“Our ancestors have been here since the beginning of time and managed the lands for a very long time, so it only makes sense that we have a good relationship,” George said.
George joined the Forest Service in 2008 as the Regional Tribal Relations Program manager for the Pacific Southwest Region, where he worked with all Indian tribes and 18 national forests in California. George joined Six Rivers National Forest in June 2011, where he as served as deputy forest supervisor.
Before working for the feds, George spent four years on the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council — while he was a student of Native American studies at HSU — and served a term as the Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman.
He was also the executive director for two nonprofits: California Indian Forest & Fire Management Council and Klamath River Inter-Tribal Fish & Water Commission.
Top priorities: Fuel reduction, marijuana grows
George told the Triplicate that two of his top priorities for Six Rivers National Forest include fuel reduction to avoid “nuclear fires” and combatting marijuana grows on public lands.
George hopes to promote ecological restoration so “our forest can survive lightning strikes and arson. Many areas are not ready to see fire and it ends up being nuclear burns.”
Beyond the ecological damage that mega-fires cause, there is also the negative impact of valuable timber being burned away, George said.
“Nobody wins when we have nuclear burns,” George said. “It’s completely devastating to local communities when that happens. We need to make our forest more healthy again.”
Another high priority for George is the impact of marijuana grows in Six Rivers National Forest. Water diversions drying up cold-water creeks needed for salmon, chemical use killing wildlife and armed growers limiting public access is a short list of the hazards associated with marijuana grows.
“Those (grows) are becoming a public nuisance and safety hazard for all of our communities,” George said. “I’m calling upon all of our community members concerned about environmental damage to help us restore our forest back to health.”
Merv and Wendy, also a lifelong Humboldt County native, have four children, Pateisha, Deja, Merv III and Evelyn, and currently reside in Hoopa.
In his spare time, George enjoys watching his kids play sports, running the local rivers in his jet boat, and playing in his father’s rock ’n’ roll band.
The “Merv George Band” may sound familiar to residents of the North Coast, as George’s father’s band has been playing in the area for 56 years, with George Jr. playing drums in the group for 26 years.
The Merv George Band will again be playing at the Yurok Tribe’s Klamath Salmon Festival on Saturday, Aug. 16. George welcomed the community to come see him play and say hi.
He also appealed for their help.
“I’m extremely excited and also humbled to get this assignment. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and I’d like to call upon all of our communities to work with me and our district rangers,” George said. “These aren’t just forest issues — they are community issues, and it will take all community members to get this work done.”