Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

From the Chief’s Desk: Chief Moore’s inaugural message [VIDEO]

Editors' Note: Below, you can find two versions of Chief Moore's ceremony—a gallery view including Chief Moore's family and ASL interpretation and a spotlight view. After the videos, you'll find Chief Moore's inaugural message to Forest Service employees.

Forest Service Chief Moore Swearing-in Ceremony (gallery view) includes ASL interpreter.

Forest Service Chief Moore Swearing-in Ceremony (spotlight view).

Chief Randy Moore speaks from behind a podium at USDA headquarters.
Chief Randy Moore, USDA Forest Service

I know there’s a lot of questions that people have. I’ve gotten a lot of that through email and phone calls. One of the things that I think I need to just hit head-on is the fact that I am the first Black American to sit in this position in the 116-year existence of this agency. So, I accept that for what it is: it’s a major milestone. It’s taken 116 years to get here, but I can assure you it’s not going to take another 116 years to have another person of color leading this wonderful agency. So that is my commitment to us as an organization. One of the things that this administration and secretary is wanting to focus on, and I certainly support this, is racial equity and diversity.

When we talk about that topic, I’m reminded of when I started as a career intern student up in North Dakota, coming from Louisiana. As you can imagine, it was a culture shock in many different ways. I had a boss that I really respected and admired. And as we were sitting on the launch in the field one day, he said “Randy, if it was left up to me,” he said, “I would never have hired you to come here.” And after I got enough courage to ask him why, he said, “Because I wouldn’t want you to go through what you’re going through.” You see, I wasn’t going through anything. I was having a fantastic time, but he felt that I was having a bad time. So that was my first lesson coming into public service: that good intentions don’t always have good outcomes. And so, when we look at this topic of racial equity and diversity, there are many perspectives on this, and I think, as and agency, we have to be willing to be open to have the right conversations. 

I look at the Forest Service, and I grew up in the Forest Service, and I know that the Forest Service is located in a lot of small, rural communities. And in a lot of those communities, you don’t have that diversity in the community, and so, you have to bring it in in many cases. So I think that, as an agency, we’ve made some major strides in that, we will continue to make major strides in that, and we will continue to focus on racial equity and justice and looking at diversifying the organization to mimic the publics that we serve. 

I’m also struck by growing up in this organization and what has led us to where we are over time. A part of that is that we’ve lost about 37% of our non-fire workforce over the last 15 years or so. And I’m amazed and perplexed by this next statement: even losing 37% of our organization, we are still as productive as we were then. But now, I also know, because I came from the field, that there was a price we’ve been paying for that. We’ve been very efficient in our processes and NEPA and things that we are using. But I also know that for many people in the Forest Service, this job is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. And because it’s a lifestyle, we have bought off into this mission and what it means is that we’ve got to do whatever it takes to be successful, sometimes at our own detriment, sometimes at our own family’s detriment. And so, I would say that we should probably pause a bit and stop talking about what we can’t do with what we don’t have and start a different conversation about “This is what we can do with what we have.”

Now, I am optimistic that it is going to get better. I am very optimistic that it is going to get better. The question I have for us, as Forest Service employees: What will we do with new opportunities? Will we make a mad dash to hire a lot of people? Now, we know we need to hire some more people out in the field to get at some of the issues that are very pertinent and germane to us today. Or will we take advantage of what the pandemic has shown us, that there is an alternative way to operate in being successful? How will we embrace this next phase of the Forest Service?

And so, I don’t have a lot of answers. I do have a lot of questions. Those of you that know me know that I’m going to be asking you a lot of questions because I want to engage the workforce into where we go and how we get there. So, stay tuned for opportunities to engage. 

I also know that we’re at a time where fires are burning across the West, and, when fires are not burning, we have flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes: We have one emergency after another. But let’s take this emergency that we have right now, which we have a number of catastrophic fires burning, and part of the reason, no matter how you feel about climate change, our climate is different than what it used to be. And so, what do we do about this? We know we have disease and insects on the landscape. We know we that we have fires burning at a catastrophic nature and they are not behaving, as they move across the landscape, as they used to. We know that we have to look at treating the land, but we need to treat it by landscapes, or we can't make a difference of what’s happening out there on the ground. We also have to look beyond jurisdictional boundaries and look at landscape, and to do that, we have to bring our community of people together. The collaboratives are one of the ways we have been successful, and looking at the shared stewardship approach that we have in the agency, I think that’s a wonderful opportunity to continue to lead out and make improvements out on the ground. 

My intention is to increase on-the-ground efforts and focus because we know that if we’re going to make a difference, we’re going to make a difference at that ground level. And so, I invite you all to stay engaged. I invite the Executive Leadership Team to engage with us. I invite the National Leadership Council and all our senior line officers throughout the agency to engage, to help us make a real focus on treating the landscapes.

Vicki Christiansen and Randy Moore shake hands at the base of the main stairwell of the Yates Building.
Chief Vicki Christiansen shakes hands with Randy Moore at the Yates Building after he arrives for his swearing in ceremony. At the ceremony, Chief Moore said, "I also want to thank Chief Christiansen. You know, she set a tone. I know she doesn’t like it when I tell her this, but she has been the perfect Chief at the perfect time for this agency, and because of that, we’ve kind of doubled down and started looking at our values as an agency and who we are as an agency. And I think  that’s a wonderful tone to set and a wonderful legacy to leave with this agency. So Chief Christiansen, thank you for your leadership and your legacy that you leave." USDA Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo.