An Archaeologist's Work Is Never Done
As with many others, the career path of forest archaeologist Dave Lacy began with an unsure beginning, but then led Lacy to a successful profession and a life-long passion.
Lacy, who grew up in Needham, Massachusetts and had originally planned to become a teacher, found his calling through the encouragement of a professor while attending Cape Cod Community College.
“One of my teachers there, Professor Mitchell, suggested that I look into archaeology,” said Lacy during a recent interview. “I ended up studying anthropology with a focus in archaeology at Boston University, and then at the University of Massachusetts where I did contract archaeology as well as taught. I found that it was the best of both worlds – both hands on and intellectual.”
Lacy’s collegiate studies led him to first become a seasonal employee for the Forest Service in 1984, and soon after, into a full-time position as forest archaeologist focusing on forest history, preservation, and Native American affairs.
In his current role, Lacy lists a variety of responsibilities as the work which fuels his fire and keeps him passionate about the forest day in and day out. From assisting with project design to limit negative impacts, to providing communication about his work to a variety of groups including fellow researchers, other agencies, tribes etc., Lacy finds his job extremely fulfilling.
“Preserving sites for future research and people’s enjoyment, leading outreach awareness education about land use history, sharing information about ‘hidden history,’ working in the field with two-hundred and fifty year old sites - all of those things are what make my job so rewarding,” said Lacy.
Additionally, Lacy is particularly proud of work that he has been involved in with the Forest Service, the Hayes Foundation, and the Vermont Archaeological Society in regards to the Archeological Field School for Kids which he has been a part of for twelve years.
When he is not in the field or at the office with the Forest Service, Lacy can be found enjoying time with his wife and two sons at their home in Pittsford, playing basketball, tennis or the drums, reading, listening to the Subdudes, throwing together an old fashioned cookout, or visiting Little Rock Pond or Silver Lake, Lacy’s two “favorite spots” of the Green Mt. National Forest.
Although Lacy devotes a huge amount of time and energy to his role with the Forest Service, ultimately it is his family that is the most important aspect of his life. He has been married to his wife Barbara for thirty-two years and the two have found great joy in raising their two sons, Jameson and Mackenzie. Jameson is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School or Arts and is currently an actor living in Brooklyn, while Mackenzie is an Honor Roll student at Otter Valley Union High School who plays baseball, soccer, and the drums in his spare time. “My family keeps me grounded, young, community oriented, connected to the past, focused on the future, and surrounded by love,” said Lacy.
While the challenges of forest management provide Lacy with personal motivation, he quickly acknowledges his grandfather as the most powerful inspiration in his life. “He was such a well-rounded guy. He was intelligent, nice, hard-working, and community oriented. Even as a veteran of both world wars, he was extremely fair-minded and accepting of all people and their ideas which is what made him so special,” said Lacy.
Lacy believes that trying to match the characteristics of his grandfather will ultimately lead him to be successful in all areas of his life, now and in the future. When asked about the challenges that he faces as forest archaeologist which force him to call on such inspiration, the pride and work ethic of Lacy shine through. “The biggest challenge of my job, and the most frustrating part, is surely the time limits on most projects. I always want to do more and do better when working on a project, but often it is time that is the limiting factor. Quality of work is what I always strive for, but sometimes it is a challenge to accomplish my best when there are limitations,” said Lacy.
In regards to the future of the forest and the challenges that the resource faces as a whole, Lacy feels that the future generations of forest service employees need to work to understand that they are just the most recent stewards of the landscape and that the physical evidence of history present throughout the forest needs to be cared for and appreciated as it helps to tell the story of the activities and decisions, and thus the impacts, of a variety of different people on their environment.
Another challenge that he believes may present itself to the forest and its employees in the future is the hiring of fewer workers and an increase in contracting with partnering organizations. “I think you will see the Forest Service become more planning-based where the actual work and completion of projects is contracted out,” said Lacy. “I personally think that there will be fewer employees like myself who are able to look at the forest’s needs, research and plan projects, and then physically carry them out, which is very satisfying.” According to Lacy, a huge challenge for the Forest Service in the future could be the lack of satisfaction of workers who may feel a disconnect with their work.
As an employee who has participated in a variety of roles and carried out an array of projects with the Forest Service, Lacy would like to see employees in the future being able to share jobs and be assigned tasks outside of their specific area in order to understand the importance of each position in the Forest Service and how they all work together towards common goals. And for employees at the Forest Service, like Lacy, the common thread is managing public lands with the future in mind.
“One of the best parts of working for the Forest Service has been the continuity of working on the same land base over many years,” said Lacy. “I am just fascinated by the resource and I feel like I have a responsibility to take care of it because if I don’t, who will? To me, working to manage the forest is a never-ending process and is what drives me to come to work everyday and be passionate about what I do.”
Chris Adams, a student at Castleton College, is currently working as a Public Affairs intern with the GMNF.