Connie Cummins grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, a city just an hour and a half outside of Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S. Yet, from an early age Cummins’ parents – both teachers – introduced her to the outdoors, with the entire family traveling all over the country during summer break with their pop-up trailer and tents. “These trips helped to build my deep desire to be out of doors,” Cummins says. As a young woman at Purdue University in 1978, studying forestry and natural resources felt like a perfect fit. During this time, Cummins also enrolled in the Forest Service’s cooperative education program and spent four semesters working on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. This experience exposed Cummins to multiple fields within forestry – from wildlife to recreation to wildfire suppression – and convinced her to specialize in forest management.
After graduating from Purdue in 1983, Cummins began working for the Forest Service, moving around the Lake States as a forester and then a forest planner. In 1990, Cummins become a district ranger for the Mio Ranger District on the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan. Over the next 25 years, Cummins would go on to serve as district ranger on the Superior National Forest in Minnesota and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin. “That was a job I loved,” Cummins says. “It put me close to the ground and allowed me to work in communities.” After working as a district ranger on these forests in the Midwest, Cummins headed out to Oregon in 2014 to serve as the forest supervisor for the Fremont-Winema National Forest, an experience she describes as “stepping into the unknown.” Living in a small town in south central Oregon, Cummins was introduced to ranching culture for the first time. And while many of the difficulties faced by Lake States’ forests were faced by Western ones, too, Cummins also became familiar with a variety of other issues, from water rights to wildfires to the management of range allotments on federal land. After three years in Oregon, Cummins returned to the Midwest in 2016 to serve as Forest Supervisor for the Superior National Forest, an experience she describes as an honor. “I was excited to have the opportunity to return to the Lake States, especially to serve as the Forest Supervisor for the Superior National Forest,” Cummins says.
As Forest Supervisor, Cummins is driven by projects and programming which enhance people’s ability to get outdoors while helping them to understand how to care for the land they’re recreating on. “I have really celebrated the number of people coming out [last year],” Cummins says, referring to the record-breaking number of Minnesotans who headed outside last summer during the pandemic. “It has really highlighted the value of the public land we have in this country.” For Cummins, the Crane Lake area in northern Minnesota holds a particularly special place in her heart. Surrounded by the Superior National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park, this area is a gateway for Cummins. “It’s the end of the road and a spot to launch into all of these wonderful places,” Cummins says.
As Forest Supervisor for the Superior National Forest, Cummins has been involved with the Minnesota Forest Resources Council for close to five years; this past year, she took over the role of Forest Service Representative on the Council. “I truly believe in the Council’s mission,” Cummins says, “which is to work together in a collaborative setting to help provide input into the management of Minnesota’s forests.” Cummins is very excited about the Council’s support for the Arrowhead Shared Stewardship Project, a pilot project in northeastern Minnesota which implements management on a landscape scale across multiple ownerships, including federal, state, and private lands. She is also energized by the Council’s recent focus on climate change. “A lot of work [on climate change] is going on by many agencies and groups,” Cummins says. “The Council’s efforts in bringing this issue to the forefront will be important in the coming years.”
To connect with Council member Connie Cummins, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Minnesota Forest Resources Council exists to support and advocate for Minnesotans like you! Please join us for our bimonthly public meetings, with Zoom links available via our calendar. We hope to see you there.
Cummins and her dog, Cork, enjoying winter.
Cummins social distancing in Wyoming.