Leadership Corner

State of the Forest Service - week of September 17, 2017

September 22nd, 2017 at 2:15PM

A photo of forest service chief Tony Tooke
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke.

This has been a dynamic week both in the agency and nationwide. Many parts are moving in different directions and all of them need attention. With that in mind, this will be a longer than usual message as I bring you up to speed to what’s going on around us at the moment.

Puerto Rico

As you know, the island of Puerto Rico was battered two days ago by the catastrophic Hurricane Maria. The images and news coming from there are harrowing. The Forest Service has deep ties to the island of Puerto Rico. Our thoughts are with our colleagues at El Yunque National Forest and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry as we wait to hear how they have fared now that the hurricane has passed.  Many efforts to provide aid are currently underway at both the local and national level. The Forest Service family is ready, willing and able to provide assistance during these difficult times. I will update you when more information is available.

Join me in the Environmental Analysis and Decision Making workshop Live Stream

Next week more than 200 leaders from around the country will convene in Phoenix for a national workshop aimed at initiating Forest Service-wide reform of our environmental analysis and decision-making processes.

We invite you to join us via live streaming for the opening and closing sessions of the Environmental Analysis and Decision Making workshop, which brings together professionals from every level of the organization.  It will result in bold moves we will make throughout the agency to help our employees improve our ability to do more work on the ground, deliver more results  and live up to our responsibility for sound land stewardship. Find the full details here.

Share our legacy on National Hunting and Fishing Day

This Saturday, Sept. 23, is National Hunting and Fishing Day. This is a day to celebrate these great traditions. More importantly, it is a day to celebrate what hunters, fishers and sports shooters mean to our nation, to our landscape and to our national forests and grasslands. With that boundless contribution comes a need to pass the legacy of conservation on. We must ensure the health, resiliency and productivity of the lands that provide us with so much.

This year, we challenge experienced hunters, fishers or sports shooters to take someone new out to experience the great outdoors through these age-old traditions. Nothing compares to taking a child, a family member or friend out for their first hunting, fishing or shooting experience.

Growing up hunting and fishing on the family farm in Alabama, I was very fortunate to have many mentors—my father, my uncles, family friends and neighbors—who taught me not only hunting and fishing, but a love and appreciation for the outdoors, and for conservation. My father was particularly influential. He taught us his love for the land; and we worked hard every day to take care of our trees and fields so they could provide for us.


These experiences left profound impressions on me. They taught me not just a love of hunting, fishing and shooting, but a deep-seated appreciation for the outdoors and conservation. In many ways, these experiences prepared me for a career serving our nation by stewarding our national forests and grasslands to ensure their long-term health, resiliency and productivity.

Hunting, fishing, and shooting mean many different things to people—the need to feed one’s family, a love of the outdoors and a love of sport itself.

Whatever their reasons, sportsmen and women nationwide contribute to conservation in immeasurable ways. The mere act of getting outdoors to hunt, fish or shoot generates revenue that goes toward programs that contribute to wildlife conservation. Thanks to efforts of hunters, fishers and sports shooters, entire species we now take for granted have been brought back from the brink of extinction. The wild turkey and white tailed deer, both numbered dangerously low at the turn of the 20th century, are now again commonplace across the American landscape.

I am proud of the role that the Forest Service has played in supporting the efforts of hunters, fishers and sports shooters since our agency began. The Forest Service is deeply rooted in these traditions, partly because the agency’s forbears were enthusiastic outdoorsmen themselves. The fundamental ethics that guide hunters, fishers and sport shooters are inseparable from the core values of conservation.

Under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt—an enthusiastic hunter and outdoorsman—the Forest Service was formed under the first Chief Forester, Gifford Pinchot, himself an avid outdoorsman. The outdoor ethics that these men and their contemporaries held forged the core values of our agency, and these are values shared by hunters, anglers, and sports shooters nationwide. President Roosevelt understood then, what still rings true today—sportsmen and sportswomen are an invaluable component of conservation.

While we offer an abundance of opportunity for hunters, fishers and sports shooters, they too, give back so much, not just to National Forest System lands, not just to public lands, but to our entire nation. Let’s honor them tomorrow, as well as introduce new generations to the benefits the Forest Service provides.    


Thank you again for your great work this and every week. See you next week.