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Employees recognized for outstanding contributions with Chief's, Under Secretary's awards

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Yesterday, USDA and Forest Service leadership presented the Under Secretary’s Awards and Chief’s Awards to celebrate the accomplishments of Forest Service individuals and teams throughout the United States and their contributions to the communities and country we serve. The ceremony was hosted by Leslie Weldon, Chief Executive for the Work Environment and Performance Office. You can watch the full video at the bottom of this page.

The Chief’s Award categories represent three of the Forest Service’s four strategic goals:

  • Sustain our nation’s forests and grasslands
  • Deliver benefits to the public
  • Apply knowledge globally

The efforts of this year’s award recipients help us meet our fourth, cross-cutting strategic goal of excelling as a high-performing agency. As Chief Christiansen said, “Our goals are all intertwined. Excelling as a high-performing agency is bound up with much of the research we do. It is bound up with forest products modernization, with special uses modernization, with NEPA innovation, wood innovations and shared stewardship.”

The award recipients in each category are:

Sustain our nation’s forests and grasslands, presented by National Forest System Deputy Chief Chris French

  • The Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project and Prince of Wales Landscape Assessment Team, for executing an exemplary collaborative process and leveraging efficiencies under the National Environmental Policy Act to prepare a 15-year project across 1.8 million acres on the Tongass National Forest.
  • The Forest Products Modernization Team, for undertaking a comprehensive modernization of the Forest Service's entire forest products delivery system. The team is identifying opportunities to use every authority, tool and technology available to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration treatments, support rural economies and deliver excellent customer service while caring for the health and safety of employees.
  • The National Forests and Grasslands of Texas Operations Team, for their use of unmanned aircraft systems to search for victims, determine damage and map proposed salvage timber sales following multiple tornadoes in April 2019 that affected more than 3,000 acres and damaged endangered species habitat on two ranger districts.

Deliver benefits to the public, presented by State & Private Forestry Deputy Chief John Phipps and Business Operations Deputy Chief Claudette Fernandez

  • The Special Uses Modernization Team, for making it easier for the American people to use and enjoy their national forests and grasslands by cutting the number of expired authorizations by half, increasing annual permit revenue by $15 million, lowering the regulatory burden for applicants and providing direct online access to popular permit types. 
  • The White River National Forest, for developing an innovative suite of environmental analysis and planning tools to reduce National Environmental Policy Act document size and planning time-frames by over 80 percent compared to the national average. Through inclusion and trust building, they have reproduced the results in more than a half dozen environmental analyses in various program areas.
  • The Wood Innovations Team, for helping to introduce mass timber products, such as cross-laminated timber. A strong mass timber market can help increase the pace and scale of hazardous fuel reductions in forests across America, including on the National Forest System.
  • The Little Missouri National Grassland Minerals and Environmental staff, for streamlining permitting and approval for new wells and mineral extraction by working with producers to use new technologies that conserve grassland resources. In the last 10 years, the grassland has approved more than 250 applications for new wells and mineral extraction in addition to managing 650 existing oil and gas wells, all while managing for a variety of complex environmental issues including roadless areas and endangered species. 
  • The Shared Stewardship Team, for working with states to bring stakeholders together across jurisdictions to share accountability for fire and other kinds of risk and to manage the risk together across broad landscapes. Through a Shared Stewardship approach, the Forest Service works with states and other stakeholders to decide on treatments in the right places, at the right time and the right scale to achieve the outcomes desired by all.
  • The Atlanta Food Forest Partnership, for giving underserved communities in Atlanta access to safe green space, conservation education and workforce development. The partner organizations are building one of the largest food forests in the country while simultaneously transforming an abandoned 7.1-acre property, purchased through a Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry grant, into a landscape rich in foods.

Apply knowledge globally, presented by Research & Development Deputy Chief Alex Friend

  • Dr. Junyong (J.Y.) Zhu, for developing a biomass fractionation process that can benefit small forest landowners and support rural economic development. Dr. Zhu led a team of engineers and scientists to invent a way to produce iso-paraffinic kerosene from softwood forest residue. His research has also made multiple contributions in the area of cellulose nanomaterials.
  • Dr. Xiping Wang, for his outstanding contributions to conservation research, specifically with respect to: technologies for assessing standing timber and logs, urban hazard trees and the condition of wood structures, and heat sterilization strategies and techniques for treating wood products to mitigate the spread of invasive species. 
  • The Family Forest Research Center, for its cutting-edge collaborative research with partners from government, nongovernmental organizations and universities to develop sound survey methods for collecting national data from private forest landowners. This information helps policymakers foresee future trends in private forest land management, allowing them to make better decisions while protecting the privacy of private landowners.

Following the Chief’s Awards were the Under Secretary’s Awards, where recipients were recognized for their exceptional contributions to USDA Strategic Goals. Under Secretary Hubbard introduced these awards as the second tier of the USDA Honor Awards.

He presented these wards with help from Chief Financial Officer Tony Dixon and Associate Chief Lenise Lago.

  • For supporting USDA Strategic Goal # 1, “Ensure USDA programs are delivered efficiently, effectively, and with integrity and a focus on customer service,” the award goes to the Special Uses Modernization Team. 
  • For supporting USDA Strategic Goal #3, “Promote American agricultural products and exports,” the award goes to the Forest Products Modernization Team. 
  • For supporting USDA Strategic Goal #4, “Facilitate rural prosperity and economic development,” the award goes to Dr. Junyong Zhu, the Wood Innovations Team and Little Missouri National Grassland, Minerals and Environmental staff. 
  • For supporting USDA Strategic Goal #6, “Foster productive and sustainable use of our National Forest System Lands,” the award goes to the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas Operations Team and the Shared Stewardship Team.

Excel as a High-Performing Agency