When Huntingdon County, PA District Conservationist, Jim Steward, had an opening in his office in 2006 during the ACES Demonstration Project, he knew just the type of person he needed. He did not have much time to train anyone; he needed someone who could hit the ground running. Enter Chris Shook – currently a Level 2 ACES enrollee in the Huntingdon County office. Jim had met Chris on several occasions at various conservation meetings and thought she would be a great candidate for the position. Jim also knew that Chris ran her own forestry consulting business which kept her busy. When a colleague mentioned to Jim that Chris was phasing out her forestry consulting business, he decided to make a call and encourage her to apply for the open position. “She was interested, and the most qualified” smiled Jim, “But she wanted to be sure her work schedule would be flexible so she would have time to hunt ruffed grouse.”
Chris had worked for both the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Forestry for several years before starting her forestry consulting business. She had been a consultant for over 20 years. When Chris’s husband retired, she decided to phase out the business so they could spend more time together. “Working part time through ACES was a good way to transition into retirement – the timing was perfect,” said Chris. “When Jim said my husband and I would have plenty of time to hunt grouse I decided to apply.”
At first the job consisted of working one or two days a week, mostly with participants to plan for wildlife. Chris met with people to provide technical assistance in establishing and managing conservation cover, tree plantings and conservation buffers. As NRCS Programs expanded to provide additional financial assistance for forestry and wildlife concerns, Chris’s role expanded as well. She has been involved with many EQIP forestry contracts- evaluating TSI, brush management and tree plantings. When the Golden- Winged Warbler Initiative was unveiled in Huntingdon County, she was a force in conducting outreach and convincing landowners to participate in the program. “The Golden- Winged Warbler projects are a great way to promote even age forest management as a way to establish new young forests” Chris says. “Young forests are a component that is under-represented in Pennsylvania’s landscape” she adds.
A new initiative that is targeting the Cerulean Warbler (another at risk species) which will continue the good forest management work that the Golden- Winged Warbler projects started is very exciting & rewarding for Chris. Another new component of her job is establishing & maintaining pollinator habitat. Many landowners are interested in learning & planting native plants that our native pollinators need.
Chris enjoys her work as an ACES enrollee and intends to stay with it as long as she can. In her free time, she and her husband will continue to hunt upland game, turkey and deer. Their favorite quarry is the ruffed grouse which they pursue with their English Setters in the woods of Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan and beyond.