We’re so excited to share that we’ve recently welcomed long-time forester, Cheryl Miller, to the Better Place Forests team as the Onsite Forest Manager for our Flagstaff forest! Cheryl Miller has dedicated her life to protecting forestland in Flagstaff, Arizona. In her new role, Cheryl will be helping to protect, maintain and conserve Better Place Forests Flagstaff and its unique biodiversity, stunning views, and memorable wildlife. We want to take this moment to welcome her to the team –– and we can’t wait for the rest of our Flagstaff community to meet her this summer!
Having spent the majority of her life advocating for and protecting the forests in the area, we couldn’t think of anyone better to manage Better Place Forests Flagstaff. Learn more about Cheryl, her connection to Flagstaff, and why she’s excited about our mission.
Cheryl walking around Flagstaff, Arizona
Cheryl’s 20-year history with Flagstaff
Cheryl fell in love with the Flagstaff area in the late 1990s when she attended forestry school at Northern Arizona University. After graduation, she worked for the NAU Centennial Forest, where her passion and dedication for forestry and conservation led to her eventually becoming the centennial forest manager. During her six years in that position, she gained valuable hands-on experience with all aspects of forest management, including how to partner with like-minded agencies and the community to make the forest a welcoming place for all.
Cheryl has deep ties to various conservation agencies throughout Arizona, and a long history of connecting with the community to educate them about forestry, enticing people to experience the majesty of nature for themselves.
During her years working at the Centennial Forest, Cheryl formed partnerships with a variety of agencies including the US Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish, Flagstaff Fire Department, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy. She also partnered with organizations like the US Geological Society, Arizona State Land Department, Ecological Restoration Institute, and Grand Canyon Trust on a variety of projects.
One of Cheryl’s most rewarding projects was with the Flagstaff Unified School District where she created a program called “Forest Fridays.” Every Friday, kindergarteners worked on a nature-based curriculum, and once a month they would go to the forest to do hands-on projects and learn about plants, wildlife, and constructing forts — building a foundation for an appreciation of nature at a young age.
Walking through Antelope Canyon in Northern Arizona
Finding Better Place Forests Flagstaff
In 2004, Cheryl created a youth summer camp that taught children the skills to become environmental stewards. One of Cheryl’s greatest accomplishments was providing scholarships to three-quarters of the campers, allowing all children to get involved in the outdoors.
“It was my mission to get everyone out in the woods to summer camp, even if their parents couldn't afford it,” said Cheryl. “So I worked hard every year to bring in money to support the scholarship fund and grow the program. We ended up creating the Junior Forestry Academy, the Senior Forestry Academy, and the Outdoor Leadership Academy, which allowed the kids to advance into programs as they grew older.
It was a really impactful way for me to reach out to the community. I ran the program for so long that sometimes I still run into my adult campers, and it’s so rewarding to hear their stories about how they remember their camp counselors, and they still have the little tree medals that we gave them when they graduated. It was a really rewarding program for all of us!”
This summer camp is how Cheryl first met Jake Simon, our Head Arborist — long before Better Place Forests existed.
“For around 13 years, I taught plant identification classes at the school of forestry,” Cheryl told us. “I really got to know and bond with the students in these classes, and Jake Simon was one of them. Afterward, he ended up working as a camp counselor for me at the summer camp.
Now, years later, Jake told me about the Better Place Forest Flagstaff position. I feel like the universe rewards me for running that summer camp by sending me these messages.”
Horseback riding in Wyoming
Cheryl’s vision for the future
“I'm really drawn to the mission of Better Place Forests,” Cheryl explained. “I love the idea of using end-of-life as a tool for conservation. Those are two things that traditionally people don't think about going together, but are actually a perfect match. What a beautiful way to leave your mark on this world, by preserving nature even after you're not on the planet anymore. To me, that is a really special opportunity for people and a really wonderful gift that we’re providing as an end-of-life option.”
Her love of Arizona’s nature means Cheryl is thrilled that the Flagstaff forest will be protected for generations to come.
“Better Place Forests is preserving a beautiful 160-acre forest that would normally go into private hands and wouldn't be open to the public,” she explained. “One of the things that I'm most excited about is that we’re a community-minded organization — we want community members to visit the forest, we want to work with other natural resource managers in the community, and to manage the property in a way that is complementary to what's being planned on other tracks in the area.
I'm excited to work with our neighbors and see how we can complement each other in terms of the management and projects that we're doing. I'm also excited to invite my friends and colleagues with Flagstaff Unified School Districts and Northern Arizona University into the forest. I want the community to benefit from how beautiful the forest is.”
When asked what is special about the Flagstaff forest, Cheryl said:
“It has got to be one of the most beautiful places in Arizona. The mix of conifer trees, the Aspen Grove, the open meadows, the wildlife, the wildflowers — it's just a little piece of heaven. The forest is incredibly beautiful, and I'm so happy that Better Place Forests is conserving it instead of it being chopped up and sold to private citizens, where it would probably have large houses built on it, changing the forest forever. I'm really proud to be part of a company that is actively preserving that land and protecting it so that it will be a forest for generations to come.”
As Onsite Forest Manager, Cheryl has a lot of plans and goals in the months before the Flagstaff forest opens for in-person tours this summer. Her main goals for the next few months include hiring forest stewards from the local community, establishing partnerships, and meeting all of our forest neighbors.
“I’m excited to get the forest open and invite people to visit, especially our customers who have believed in us so early on. When people are out there just walking around, starting to create relationships with the forest that will last for decades, that’s really special and fulfilling. So I'm focused on preparing Better Place Forests Flagstaff to open so people can get out there and experience how beautiful it is for themselves. We’re looking forward to finally welcoming the community this summer!”
To see for yourself the beauty of the Flagstaff Forest, and why Cheryl’s so passionate about conserving it, book a free online forest tour.