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A tribute to resilience in a time of pandemic

Portrait photo of Alex Friend
Deputy Chief Alex Friend, Research and Development

As we approach the end of the fiscal year, I have been contemplating what FY2020 has meant for us as an agency and the country at large. We were blindsided by COVID-19, which unleashed unprecedented economic, domestic and social upheaval. Within a matter of weeks, we were settling in for the pandemic long haul of working remotely under extremely challenging conditions and great uncertainty. All the while, we’ve been isolated from our usual social outlets and living in a heightened state of anxiety regarding our health, safety and economic security.

I continue to be inspired and humbled by the resilience of Forest Service staff, who have upheld our mission with grace and dedication, especially during these difficult times. This year has brought record numbers of visitors to many of our national forests and grasslands, compounding the usual summer visitor surge and intense fire season. These wild and unspoiled landscapes offer the public opportunities to find solace and rejuvenation during chaotic times, and our staff have continued to provide excellent customer service to visitors amid the elevated pressures and challenges.

We are an agency that has, in no small way, supported the public in coping with COVID-19, underscoring how important sustainable stewardship of our public lands is for the well-being of Americans. In that sense, we have contributed to the broader resilience of our nation during this extraordinary time. Without a doubt, this is something we all can be deeply proud of.

Beyond our role as caretakers of some of the nation’s best and most accessible pandemic getaway destinations, there are thousands of other ways in which our staff contribute to our collective ability to cope with threats and hardships. The Forest Service’s league of world-class scientists and natural resource specialists dedicates their careers to understanding, testing and implementing technologies and management practices that enhance forest ecosystems and further our agency’s legacy to the American people. We continually build off the best available science to seek and cultivate disease-resistant trees, understand and convey techniques that will equip land managers to confront the complicated challenges presented by a changing climate, harness new technologies to better understand forest health and trends, and more. 

Our motto, “Caring for the land and serving people,” always guides our actions and leads us forward. This year it seems to have taken on greater meaning. It has been an honor to work alongside people from across the agency who have continued to demonstrate genuine dedication in the face of a global crisis. This pandemic will eventually run its course, and I am confident the resilience demonstrated in our workforce, and what we work so hard to foster in our national forests and grasslands, will continue to carry us through future challenges.”