By Deborah Olsen

GIS Specialist Nicolai Bencke of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests helped to create a map of conservation easements in Routt County for an in-depth article editor Jennie Lay wrote in our Summer 2011 edition on preservation of open space within the county. Until he undertook the project for Steamboat Magazine, no such map was available to the community.

Four years later, Bencke continues to work out of the Routt National Forest office in Steamboat Springs as a GIS specialist. He is a member of the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team B, which covers five states. He maps fires and floods and gathers data from weather stations within the forest. He assisted in mapping the 2013 floods that affected 17 counties in Colorado.

Bencke’s appreciation for wild places goes beyond his work-related responsibilities. “While the term ‘wilderness’ can have definitions as diverse as the individuals describing it, be it solitude, contact with the natural world or the opportunity for viewing animals in their customary environments, I most appreciate recreating in the wilderness,” he says.  “We’re fortunate in Steamboat to have so many wilderness resources so easily accessible.”