BY LORELEI GOFF
SPECIAL TO THE GREENEVILLE SUN
U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Terry Bowerman will retire on Jan. 3, 2014, after seeing the capstone project of his career completed -- the acquisition and transfer to public ownership of the 10,000 acres of primitive wilderness known as Rocky Fork.
Bowerman, who has been a Scoutmaster with Nolachuckey District Troop 46 in Greeneville for the last 10 years, credits the Boy Scouts of America for setting him on the path to a career in forestry.
"I grew up in an urban area in the suburbs of San Francisco," Bowerman said.
"Our Boy Scout troop hiked in Yosemite National Park twice a year for years, and so I got the love of the outdoors. I always wanted to work for the Forest Service."
He began his nearly 40-year career in the United States Department of Agriculture as a soil scientist for the Soil Conservation Service in 1975, working in California and then Nevada.
He transferred into the United States Forest Service in 1991 and continued working as a soil scientist in the Targhee National Forest in Idaho.
He replaced Olin Mason as the Unaka District Ranger for the Cherokee National Forest in 1999.
Bowerman worked on a number of important projects during his career, including the ecological unit inventory, which mapped the soils, vegetation and land forms of about two million acres of the Targhee National Forest.
The survey took seven-and-a-half years and resulted in two published volumes of cataloged data.
However, he said the transfer of the Rocky Fork area in Greene and Unicoi counties into public ownership in September of 2012 is the capstone of his career.
The area is important for the preservation of water quality, habitat, at-risk species and the protection of the Appalachian Trail.
"A small portion of the tread of the Appalachian Trail went across Rocky Fork. That was the justification for purchasing it and getting it into public ownership," said Bowerman.
"In my mind, the main reason it's important is because it's such a large, contiguous tract of land that is primitive. In other words, undeveloped.
"But on top of that, there are peregrine falcons, there are apparently some rare plants, and there's a rare salamander that lives in that area and along the cliffs near the lower road."
Bowerman began working on the acquisition of Rocky Fork 15 years ago, but is quick to point out that its completion was a cooperative effort among concerned citizens, public and private agencies, and state and federal government officials.
He continues to work on the recreational development of the area, 2,000 acres of which have been designated as Tennessee's 55th state park, until his retirement.
"We'll miss Terry," said his co-worker of 12 years, Natural Resource Management Team Leader Cheryl Summers.
"He was great to work for. He's someone who cared for the land, was good to his employees, and also was concerned about the people using the forest.
"Some of the things that we'll remember him for are the Pinnacle Fire Tower and trail, and he was instrumental in getting the Paint Creek Corridor area in Greene County reconstructed after the  flood."
Terry McDonald, the public affairs officer for the Cherokee National Forest, said that no decision has been made for Bowerman's replacement.
"I really hate to see him leave," said McDonald, who worked with Bowerman on a number of projects and appreciated his can-do attitude.
"He was easy to work with, even when things maybe weren't going right."
Bowerman won't be lacking for projects in his retirement. In addition to a lengthy "Honey Do" list, he says he plans to finish building a home he and his wife began working on two years ago.
"We're hammering the nails. We're pulling the wires. We're painting it. We're doing everything," he said.
Bowerman also plans to do some traveling across the United States and abroad, and enjoy his hobbies.
"I'm an avid beekeeper, and I want to take up hunting again. I've never really hunted since I've been in Tennessee. I just didn't have the time," he said, adding with a smile, "I'm going to enjoy retirement."
Bowerman's smile may have as much to do with his 39 years of service and contributions to the nation's wilderness areas as to his retirement.
"At night, you'll be able to drive up I-26 and look up there and there won't be any lights," he said, reflecting on Rocky Fork.
"There's going to be those wild mountains that are going to be there in perpetuity because it's public. There are no 'No Trespassing' signs."
Lorelei Goff is a freelance writer living in Greene County. Her writing repertoire ranges from news reporting to spiritual commentary, with a special love for vivid features profiling interesting people and places. For more information, visit her website: LoreleiGoff.com.