The Croatan National Forest has a new district ranger.

Cody Hutchinson started Monday overseeing the 25 employees at the 160,000-acre forest.

“I’m looking forward to strengthening our relationships with residents of the local communities and with partners interested in sustaining healthy and resilient forests,” said Hutchinson. “I’m going to meet with partners and community members and our employees and we’re going to get together and have those discussions. I look forward to being able to allow the work that’s happening here to continue and to improve upon relationships with the community.”

Hutchinson replaces District Ranger Jim Gumm.

“Cody’s experience in forestry and fire management will serve the Croatan and its surrounding communities well,” said Allen Nicholas, forest supervisor of the national Forests in North Carolina. “He has a record of success in building partnerships and collaborating with diverse groups to achieve restoration goals.”

Hutchinson has also worked as a silviculturist, small sales forester, firefighter, and acting district ranger on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in Colorado, the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, and the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, according to a release from the National Forests of North Carolina.

Hutchinson has a degree in forest resources management from the University of Montana. He was most recently the environmental coordinator on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona, where he also served as the acting natural resources staff officer overseeing the vegetation and fuels programs.

The Croatan is the largest assignment to date for Hutchinson, who visited the forest for the first time in August when he and his wife Suzi came to search for a house. The couple is expecting their first child.

Hutchinson said he started his career in firefighting and worked some of the worst fire seasons in the West. He plans to bring his past experience with him to the Croatan.

“My past experience has been doing the work on projects and programs, and now I will be leading others to ensure they can complete projects and programs here,” he said.