Kevin Cooper began his career in 1980 at the University of Montana studying grizzly bear ecology and working summers as a backcountry ranger and wildlife researcher with the US Park Service at Mount Rainier and Crater Lake National Parks. After completing graduate school at the University of Alaska and Oregon State University studying Rocky Mountain elk he moved to San Luis Obispo in 1987 to work as a biologist on the Los Padres National Forest, where he worked as a district, zone, and finally the Forest Biologist before retiring in 2018.
Kevin supervised the Los Padres Wildlife, Fisheries, Botany, Range, and Watershed Programs and worked with interdisciplinary teams to mitigate project impacts to wildlife, conduct wildlife surveys, write NEPA and Endangered Species Act (ESA) reports, monitor project effects on wildlife, and respond to litigation regarding forest programs such as developed recreation, wilderness management, road and trail management, fuels treatment planning, timber management, oil and gas development, range management, wildfire suppression, and watershed management. Kevin participated in Forest land management planning and worked with other federal and local agencies to manage species across political boundaries on efforts such as the California Condor Recovery Team.
Kevin also worked throughout his wildlife career as a firefighter on hand crews, and eventually became the Lead Resource Advisor and Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) leader, coordinator, and liason for large wildfires such as the 2018 Thomas Fire where he was able to bring together all of his skills as a leader to help organize the interagency flood assessment before, during, and after the Montecito debris flows.