District V – Capitan
The Capitan District spans the southeast corner of the state. It is comprised of Chaves, De Baca, Eddy, Lea, Lincoln, Otero, and Roosevelt Counties. The district provides technical assistance to landowners and has wildland fire suppression responsibilities that cover 30,877 square miles, encompassing nearly 8.6 million acres of private, non-federal, and non-municipal lands. The staff provides leadership and technical assistance on forest and watershed health projects, as well as fire safety issues.
NICK SMOKOVICH is the Capitan District Forester. Nick joined the Capitan District in February of 2018 after working as the Timber Management Officer for the Socorro District. He has been with the State Forestry Division since 2001. Nick attended Slippery Rock University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Park, Recreation, and Natural Resource Management. He has several years of experience assisting landowners with forest management plans through the Forest Stewardship Program, working as an inspector for the American Tree Farm Program, and as an inspector for timber harvesting operations to ensure compliance with NM State Forestry’s harvesting regulations that support sound forest practices. Nick is the District Regional Coordinator for Firewise Communities.
WALTER WILSON is the Fire Management Officer (FMO). He joined the Capitan District in August 2020 after 17 years of working as an Administratively Determined (AD) wildland firefighter for the Forestry Division. Walter has been a volunteer firefighter with the Lincoln County Fire Service since 1999 and is currently a Pecos Type 3 Incident Management Team member. As the FMO, Walter conducts fire prevention planning, wildland fire suppression, coordinates fire training courses, and works with communities in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) to ensure homeowners are educated on the importance of defensible space. Walter also works closely with local governments on Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP), assists rural fire departments with acquiring funding for firefighting equipment, and participates in many other projects.
MITCHELL HARPER is the Project Forester for the Capitan District. Mitchell joined the Forestry Division in April 2018 as an administratively determined (AD) forest technician before becoming the district’s full-time Project Forester in 2022. Mitchell was born and raised in Capitan and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business and economics from New Mexico State University. In his position, he conducts and implements multiple forestry programs, advises state and private cooperators on the best forest practices to meet land management objectives, implements federal cost-share programs with local cooperators, conducts wildfire suppression and timber sale regulation resource protection activities, monitors and inspects tree farm participation and compliance, provides stewardship program guidance, and assists partner agencies, landowners and stakeholders to plan and implement large scale forest restoration projects.
Eliza Kretzmann is a Project Forester for the Capitan District. She returned to the Division in 2023 with previous experience at the Forest and Watershed Health Office. Eliza has several decades of experience in improving rural, natural, and urban environments. She grew up in New Mexico, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy.
PATTY WILSON is the Administrative Management Officer for the Capitan District. She is a proud Native New Mexican who joined the Forestry Division as a seasonal employee for the district in 2012 before becoming its permanent AMO in 2015. Patty has been a team member of the Pecos Zone Type 3 Incident Management Team since 2013 and currently holds the position of Finance Section Chief Type 3.
Smokey Bear Historical Park
Since 1990, the Capitan District has also managed Smokey Bear Historical Park. Exhibits at the site include a historical timeline of fire prevention programs, Smokey Bear’s story and final resting place, information about fire ecology, and more. The surrounding gardens are an exploration of New Mexico’s life zones, desert to sub-alpine. The park is a major participant in local schools’ annual Conservation Days. Smokey Bear Days are held during the first weekend in May, and the park is involved in Capitan’s Fourth of July celebrations. Easter and Halloween are also big events at Smokey Bear Historic Park.
Smokey Bear Historical Park Managing Forester
MARY LAVIN is the Managing Forester for Smokey Bear Historical Park. She began working for New Mexico State government in 2017 and joined the Forestry Division in 2021 as the Capitan District’s Timber Management Officer. Mary earned her bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Management from Northern Arizona University and worked for the Apache-Sitgreaves and Lincoln National Forests as a Timber, Recreation and Lands Manager.
Smokey Bear Historical Park Ranger
WENDY BOSS joined Smokey Bear Historical Park as a Park Ranger in 2018. Wendy greets thousands of visitors each year who come to Capitan to learn about the Smokey Bear fire prevention advertising campaign and the history of Smokey Bear the living icon, New Mexico’s hometown hero.