WISCONSIN—Growing up in Baraboo, Wisconsin—not far from conservationist and author Aldo Leopold’s famous shack—Gordon (Gordie) Blum explored the outdoors with his father and grandfather, who instilled the values of conservation and respect for the land. Today, Blum embodies those values as the newly selected deputy regional forester for the Eastern Region of the USDA’s Forest Service, which manages approximately 12 million acres of public land in the northeastern United States.
As a deputy regional forester, Blum belongs to a leadership team overseeing 17 national forests, one national tallgrass prairie and more than 2,000 employees across 20 states. The Eastern Region stretches from Minnesota to Maine, from Missouri to West Virginia, and encompasses many of America’s most treasured places in between.
“My primary focus will be to support the great people we have working for us across the region,” said Blum. “We are well positioned in the East to actively work with our state and federal partners to engage our stakeholders, partners and the communities we serve in developing our collective vision for our public lands.”
Blum added, “The Forest Service can play a key role in diversifying rural economies and promoting economic growth and development while improving overall quality of life.”
Blum spent his early years in Wisconsin, graduating from Baraboo High School and earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His orbit expanded when he served for six years in the U.S. Army, with stations in upstate New York and northern Italy. His experience overseas, where public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities were less accessible, taught him the unique value of America’s investment in these spaces.
“Teddy Roosevelt’s belief in setting aside public forests to serve society’s greatest good was a special idea and something that we should not ever take for granted,” Blum said.
During his military service, Blum also earned his master’s degree from the State University of New York. He credits this period in upstate New York with solidifying his decision to explore a career in conservation with a natural resource management agency. “I believe the time I spent in the U.S. Army as a noncommissioned officer instilled a foundation of servant leadership,” he said.
Following graduate school, Blum led community-involvement work with the Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago, cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters. Then, in 2000, Blum joined the Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, which has been one of the nation’s top sources of scientific research on wood and wood products and their commercial uses since 1910.
After eight years as a communications director, Blum shifted his focus to forest management, serving in numerous Forest Service roles that took him to new points across the nation: as district ranger on the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota; legislative specialist in Washington, D.C.; deputy forest supervisor and acting forest supervisor on Oregon’s Willamette National Forest; and regional director of recreation, lands and minerals for the states of Oregon and Washington.
But the pull of the Midwest remained strong. Blum returned to Wisconsin to take on a new role as assistant director for landscape scale conservation for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. Over the years, he assumed numerous acting roles: chief of staff for the acting undersecretary of agriculture; acting forest supervisor on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northwestern Wisconsin; and acting director of recreation for the Eastern Region.
Here in Wisconsin, conservation has become more than a career for Blum. In 2002, he purchased his grandfather’s farm near Baraboo. With his wife of 26 years, Christine, and their two teenage children, Jovanna and Caden, Blum has extensively restored the property, including planting 11,000 trees and 12 acres of native tall grass prairie in cooperation with the Aldo Leopold Foundation, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever and many others.
In his new role as deputy regional forester for the Eastern Region, Blum will draw on years of personal and professional experience — and his deep ties to this state and region — to advance the Forest Service’s mission.
“We are fortunate in the Eastern Region to serve a large collection of people who have a strong land ethic and an understanding of the importance of wisely using and conserving our natural resources to meet the needs of future generations,” Blum said. “I hope to support our incredibly talented employees across the region and give them the tools and space they need to innovate and advance our mission.”
He added, “I feel incredibly blessed to have a leadership opportunity like this headquartered in my home state of Wisconsin.”