Written by Zander Evans and Eytan Krasilovsky
The Forest Stewards Guild community mourns the loss of an amazing person, forester, fire practitioner, leader, and mentor: Orlando Romero. Orlando was senior forester at the Guild’s southwest office until his retirement in 2015. True to his title, Orlando was a key source of knowledge and strategy.
“I learned fire management, forest ecology, but most crucially Orlando showed how to navigate personal dynamics with grace, equanimity, and good humor.” says Zander Evans
Orlando demonstrated a gentle, but effective approach to community engagement. He was expert in patiently talking and working with residents to understand their perspectives and help them understand how forest management could help make their homes safer and forests healthier.
As a US Forest Service Fire management officer, Orlando would ensure that wildland urban interface communities saw a little smoke every year to help inure them to the annoyance and remind them that they lived in a fire-adapted ecosystem. Without Orlando’s expertise, it is unlikely that the Guild would have been able to enter into the world of prescribed fire. Orlando’s knowledge and experience were the foundation for the Guild’s early success with prescribed fire. He had a healthy respect for fire as a tool but wasn’t afraid of fire.
Orlando was also the central figure behind the Guild youth program in the Southwest. Orlando helped make the Forest Stewards Youth Corp the vibrant program it remains today. He would travel across New Mexico interviewing and encouraging young adults to engage and step up to the responsibilities of stewardship. At the same time, he wouldn’t tolerate recklessness and wouldn’t shirk from firing participants who put others at risk. Through over a decade of Orlando’s leadership in the youth program, he shaped a generation of New Mexicans who now have a deep appreciation and understanding of our forests and watersheds.
“Orlando was generous with his time and always provided a story to accompany the advice. The stories were the pearls of wisdom that everyone who knew him can carry forward.” says Eytan Krasilovsky.
Former Southwest Director Matt Piccarello reflects that, “I learned from Orlando that Forestry is as much about relationships with people as it is about trees. He really exemplified the Guild’s approach to Community Forestry, that of working closely with local partners, and I am very fortunate to have had an opportunity to work alongside Orlando.”
Orlando passed on April 4, 2023 and was preceded in death by his wife Lydia Romero. Orlando’s legacy lives on in the forests he helped steward and the people he mentored.