The news is not too surprising, but the timing is—and a bit fortuitous for us. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on June 17 that U.S. Forest Service chief Gail Kimbell has been replaced by Tom Tidwell. It’s not unusual for a new presidential administration to select someone they believe will carry out their vision for natural resource management. The timing is unusual because the Obama Administration has yet to appoint an undersecretary of agriculture to the position that oversees the Forest Service. It’s fortuitous for us because FHS staff historian Jamie Lewis is flying to Missoula to conduct an oral history interview with former chief Dale Bosworth next week as part of our Oral History program and will ask Dale about what a transition from one chief to the next can be like.
Chief Tidwell is the third consecutive chief promoted from Regional Forester in Region 1, headquartered in Missoula, Montana, to the position. Coincidentally, Tidwell had succeeded Kimbell as Regional Forester when she succeeded Bosworth upon his appointment as chief in 2001. An article in Missoula’s newspaper speculates as to why the last three chiefs have come from that region:
I think the public was growing weary of the fighting, and Tom’s been there to support that collaboration and help lead it,” Bosworth said. This administration is interested in people who can collaborate, and that makes Tom a natural.
“You have to have your act together to have success as a regional forester,” said Bosworth, who returned to Missoula after retirement. “This is the last of the wildlands in the lower 48 states. It’s an excellent place to get a wide variety of experiences.”
In particular, Bosworth said it’s a training ground for bringing together the independent and conflicting interests of the Northern Rockies. This area has led the nation in getting those groups to work together.
The Missoulian notes, “The Forest Service’s Northern Region commands 25 million acres in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota. That includes 12 national forests and four national grasslands.
“Before coming to Missoula, Tidwell worked in eight other national forests in three regions. His positions included district ranger, forest supervisor and legislative affairs specialist in Washington, D.C. He was forest supervisor in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. And he has 19 years of firefighting experience, from ground crew to agency administrator.” In all, he’s been with the Forest Service for 32 years.
We wish Tom well as he takes over, and we also wish Gail well on the next phase of her career.