By Marcy Stamper
Sherry Furnari started her job as manager of the Methow Wildlife Area in late August, just over a month after 15,000 of the 35,000 acres she manages burned in the Carlton Complex Fire.
Although Furnari came to the Methow from a dramatically different climate and habitat type — in Florida — she said there are many similarities in terms of wildlife management and even the role of fire.
Furnari was attracted to the appreciation for the natural environment, conservation-oriented mindset and sense of place in the Northwest. “Those are some of the same things I hold sacred and value,” she said.
Even in the humid climate in Florida, wildfire played a significant role. “I’m used to doing prescribed burning in Florida — most of the habitat there is fire-dependent,” she said. “Fire is a catalyst for change and new growth.”
Furnari has worked in environmental and land stewardship positions for 17 years. Her previous positions include work as a forestry technician at a national wildlife refuge and six years as a resource management and environmental specialist for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
She also spent 10 years as land stewardship coordinator for a county-level conservation program in Florida, where she wrote land-management plans, performed site inspections, identified flora and fauna, did computerized mapping and handled grazing leases. Furnari also managed projects for habitat restoration and exotic plant control.
Furnari wants to improve the public’s access to and understanding of the seven Methow wildlife areas with better maps, both at kiosks and online. She has been creating and updating maps for use by the public, and developing others for agency managers that highlight things such as restoration needs.
Since Furnari accepted the position in June, the wildlife area she oversees has undergone significant changes. She has spent her first months on the job dealing with the aftermath of the fire, assessing burn severity and where to re-seed and plant trees to avoid mudslides. She has also been working on grazing and agricultural leases to find alternatives to burned plots, and making arrangements to replace fencing and irrigation infrastructure.
Furnari will be implementing several grant-funded programs to restore forests and streams that have filled in with soils and sediment and to improve fish habitat.
Furnari will also focus on basic land management, such as noxious-weed control, fence repair, improvement of signage and updating of agricultural leases.