From the Chief's Desk: Announcement from Chief Christiansen [VIDEO]
Editor's Note: Chief Christiansen took time to write a longer statement that relates to her selfie video. That statement is immediately below the embedded video. The video transcript can be found further down on this page.
I am announcing a personal decision I have made together with my family to retire from the USDA Forest Service. There is never a perfect time to retire because there are still things I would like to accomplish with you and for you.
It was a difficult decision. I have been a professional forester, wildland firefighter, and land manager for most of my life—for the last 40 years. I was lucky in that my parents had a 10-acre family forest in rural Olalla, not far from Seattle. I’d play outside in the woods with my sister, wandering through the Douglas-fir and western redcedar and watching the salmon migrating up our creek.
I wanted to be a forester ever since that time. My personal passion has been connecting people with their natural resources and serving with the Forest Service for the last 11 years has allowed me to do that in partnership with so many Forest Service friends and colleagues. Serving with all of you has been a special privilege, the perfect capstone for my career.
So, retirement will bring a sea-change to my life, but the time has come for me to spend more time with my family, my mom, my children, and my grandchildren. Most of my family lives in the Pacific Northwest, a whole continent away from me. I owe it to them to be closer so we can spend more time together. That is why I have chosen to retire.
I also believe that the time is right. Think of all the transitions we have made at the Forest Service—everything we have accomplished together in the last three years.
Together, we rose to the challenge of a global pandemic like nothing the world has seen in a century or more. Together, we navigated the safety challenges in a horrendous fire year, with unprecedented wildfire activity across the West. We could well face another challenging fire year, but we are better prepared, especially now that things are improving with the pandemic.
Together, we also made progress in improving forest conditions across the United States despite unprecedented challenges from wildfires, hurricanes, bark beetle outbreaks, and other disturbances. Together, we gained efficiencies by reforming our NEPA processes, and we can be proud of the improvements we made, which will help us accelerate the pace of our fuels and forest health treatments. In fact, we have steadily increased our fuels and forest health treatments and the volume of timber sold, achieving the highest timber sales in 20 years.
Together, we launched our Outcome-Based Investment Strategy in 2018, better known as Shared Stewardship. We now have Shared Stewardship agreements from coast to coast, extending to almost every state in the nation. Through partnerships across shared landscapes, we are finally poised to place the right treatments in the right places at the right time and at the right scale.
Maybe most importantly, we have accelerated the pace of the cultural transformation begun in 2010, when I first joined the Forest Service. In the last 3 years, we have embraced This Is Who We Are, launching an agencywide effort to create a safe and inclusive work environment where everyone is treated with respect and valued for their work. We have named agency core values of service, interdependence, diversity, safety and conservation and we are learning to live by them. And we are values based, purpose driven, and relationship focused.
Much work remains. But we have successfully navigated the transition to a new administration, and I am confident that the Forest Service is on the right track, with the right priorities for the future: beating the pandemic; providing economic relief; tackling climate change; creating racial equity, in accordance with This Is Who We Are; and improving our workforce and our work environment in the spirit of changing our culture to become who we truly aspire to be.
So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support and hard work over the years. I am so proud to be one of you—to share in the mission of the Forest Service, which has always been my personal mission as well.
I have been working with Secretary Vilsack to plan for my retirement for several months now and I will continue to do so. He will announce the next Chief later this month as well as a timeframe for a thoughtful transition. During that transition, I look forward to demonstrating our core value of interdependence in handing off leadership to a new Chief.
It has truly been a privilege and an honor to serve as your Chief. With that said, I wish you all well.
–Chief Vicki Christiansen
Editor's note: This video transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. If you don't have the bandwidth to watch the video, the transcript is below.
Hi everyone, it's Chief Vicki Christiansen. Today, I'm going to share a personal decision that I have made together with my family. I will be retiring from USDA Forest Service in August. Please know what a difficult and emotional decision this is for me. I've been a wildland firefighter, a professional forester and a land manager for the last 40 years, and my personal passion is connecting people with their natural resources and serving at the Forest Service for the past 11 years has allowed me to do that in partnership with all of you. Serving with you has been a really special privilege, and it's the best capstone that I could ever ask for my career.
But, the time has come for me to spend more time with my family: my dear mother, who will turn 90 in a few months, my—of course—my children and my grandchildren. You know, they live a continent away in the Pacific Northwest, and I just need to be closer to them. And they have supported me so much throughout my entire career. It's time for me to give back and to support them.
I've chosen this moment, in part, because I think it's the best time. There's never a perfect time. I'd like to get so much more done with you and for you, but there are great leaders that are ready to step up, and in the coming days or weeks Secretary Vilsack will be announcing the next Chief. And I'll stick around; I'll spend a few weeks to do a transition with the new Chief once they're in place. We want you all to know how much a good transition means for the Forest Service and USDA.
So, think about all that we have accomplished in the last three years: coping with a global pandemic and horrendous fire years, the good traction that has been made in improving forest conditions and really setting the stage to do even more of that work with shared stewardship, and, of course, changing our culture for the better by naming and living our values through This is Who We Are.
So, thank you for your support and thank you for your incredibly hard work. I am very proud to be one of you and this great mission of the Forest Service will be in my heart forever. It's been an extreme honor and a great privilege to serve as your Chief.
Editor’s Note: To submit potential topics for the Chief's consideration or provide feedback, email FS-Employee Feedback.