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Our Town: Sami Dinar

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The Sopris Sun is conducting a series of interviews with folks you may not have seen in the paper before – a sort of introduction to your neighbors. This week, we caught up with Sami Dinar, the Range and Noxious Weed Specialist for the Aspen Sopris Ranger District.

Q: Where are you from and how did you end up here?

A: I was born in New Jersey but I grew up all over the East Coast. My now-husband and I were living in Maine and it was a brutal winter — several weeks of negative double digit temperatures I came out to visit my brother in Boulder in March and it was 60 degrees and clear blue sky. When our winter lease was up, we lived a couple places in Colorado before coming to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2006 when my husband got a job.

Q: Have you been in public lands management the whole time?

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A: I started out working on farms, then opportunities popped up and I just sort of took them. I did some community organizing, and that led me to geomatics. When I first moved to the Valley, I was starting a GIS [Geographic Information System] consulting business.

Q: What does that entail?

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A: I’ve GPSed all the infrastructure for the enhanced 911 board there. I’ve done invasive weed mapping. I’ve worked with the Roaring Fork Conservancy and local government. When the market sort of tanked here, my husband and I decided to take a little hiatus and did a cross-country bicycle trip and then went to the Peace Corps for two years. After being gone from a tech field for three years, I knew it was going to be a hard thing to get back into, so I decided to go back to my ag roots. That’s when I went back to school and got my Master’s in Integrated Resource Management. Then I got the job at the Forest Service.

Q: Tell us more about that.

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A: I administer the grazing permits for the district. I also administer the invasive weeds program, which at this point is mostly contracted out for treatment. We want to bring back our native vegetation.

Q: How can people help?

A: I’m a program of one, so information is always good. We know where a lot of stuff is, but if people see weeds they can identify, I’m certainly happy to get a location.

Q: How’s your relationship with the local ranchers?

A: They know the country way better than I do and they’re teaching me all the time. When problems arise, we try to go out and look at things together and figure out solutions. They really respect the land and want to keep ranching it for generations and want to keep them there.

Q: What kind of interactions do you have with the general public?

A: I just try to educate people on the multiple use of national forest and how important grazing is. Grass can’t grow without disturbance. Those cows are cutting the grass for us, basically. Out of that we get food and fiber. It actually helps build soil health if managed correctly.

Q: Does the work you do alter the way you look at the outdoors?

A: Once you learn about noxious weeds and what they are, they will ruin your life forever. My husband can’t stand hiking with me now because that’s all I can see when I’m out there. But really, we live in a gorgeous place and there’s lots of fun to be had.

Q: Which activities do you participate in?

A: Hiking and camping and skiing — same as everybody. I’ve dabbled in photography for a long time. Mostly landscapes and nature, from wide vistas to macros of flowers to astrophotography. During our furlough I spent part of my time building a website: samidinarimages.com.

Q: The furlough must have been tough.

A: It was interesting, but we made it through. It’s a good group of people. We got together and supported each other.

If you know of someone who should be featured in “Our Town,” email news@soprissun.com or call 510-3003.

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