The great outdoors

New business takes retiring fire management officer from the forest to the water

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For Craig resident and outdoors guru Mike Rieser, it's been a lifetime spent in the open air. Unfortunately, his office at the Little Snake Field Office for the Bureau of Land Management doesn't even have a window.

Well, his former office didn't.

"I've lived my life outdoors," Rieser said Friday amid a clutter of packing boxes in his Craig office. "I grew up on a ranch. Everything we did was outdoors. I'm kind of going back to my family roots."

Rieser's 32 years of government service ended Friday. He is retiring to pursue a business opportunity.

Many of those government years were spent "out on the ground" fighting forest fires. Even after all these years, Rieser said, the process and power of fires as a natural element still fascinates him.

Most recently, he served as the fire management officer for the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, as well as the forest, park and wildlife services. Rieser, who is certified as an operations chief and an air tactical supervisor, was responsible for overseeing fires, suppressing them and educating the public about fire planning and management.

Give him his pick, and Rieser said he'd prefer fighting fires up close instead of from his windowless office.

"I always liked the physical and mental challenge," he said. "If you've got an adventurous spirit, it's your type of job. It's exciting work. Wildfires have probably the single greatest ecological impact on our forests and grasslands."

But now, Rieser will turn his attention from fighting and managing the fires of Colorado to fish patrolling the waters of Mexico, Guatemala and other locations.

He is the managing partner of Baja Flyfishing Co., which has been a part-time venture for the past decade. Rieser and his two partners work as fly tiers, rod builders and guides for resorts, hotels and fly shops.

Together, the company executives have more than 30 years of experience fly fishing in waters spanning from Panama to Alaska.

He said what began as an activity in the off-season and on vacations, holidays and weekends has developed into a busy venture.

"I was doing it part-time, but it's just gotten too big," he said.

He will also continue to present programs on big game saltwater fishing to various clubs and at outdoor shows. Those presentations have taken him across the country, including Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey and Utah.

Rieser is a native of Bishop, Calif., a town east of Sierra Nevada, and grew up on a cattle ranch.

Rieser, and his wife, Marilyn, live on a 120 acre spread on Moffat County Road 30, where they grow alfalfa and raise horses. Rieser has three children: sons, Luis, 34, and Grady, 22, and a daughter, Terra, 13.

Although his work will keep him away from home for several months of the year, Rieser said there is no question about where he'll continue to call home.

"Our permanent residence is going to stay right here in Craig," he said.

Josh Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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