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History - Dale N. Bosworth, 15th Chief, 2001-2007

History Home > Leadership Time Line > Bosworth

A picture of Forest Service Chief Dale N. Bosworth

Dale N. Bosworth was born in 1943 in Altadena, CA. His father, Irwin Bosworth, served as supervisor of the Eldorado and Lassen National Forests in California. As a teenager, Bosworth served on a fire crew for the California Department of Forestry, later earning a B.S. degree in forestry from the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID. After graduating in 1966, Bosworth took a job as a forester on the St. Joe National Forest (now part of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests). He served the Forest Service in a series of positions in Idaho, Montana, and Utah, including as district ranger, planning staff officer, and forest supervisor. In 1992, Bosworth was named deputy regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region. From there, he was promoted to regional forester for the Intermountain Region in 1994. In 1997, he was picked as regional forester for the Northern Region, a position he held until he was tapped to be Chief in 2001.

As Chief, Bosworth faced a series of challenges. Record fire seasons and insect outbreaks across the West highlighted the need for more active management in America’s forests. In many regions, forests were overgrown and highly susceptible to drought as well as conflagrations and insect infestations; work was needed to restore fire-adapted forests to a healthier, more resilient condition. However, the public debate still focused on roadbuilding and timber removal, a hold-over from the 1970s–90s, and a tangle of conflicting regulations, the so-called process predicament, stopped many restoration projects.

Partly through the Administration’s Healthy Forests Initiative, Bosworth launched an effort to improve Forest Service processes. A series of measures, culminating in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, facilitated forest stewardship, including new categorical exclusions, new stewardship contracting authority, and streamlined procedures for working with regulatory agencies. Bosworth also revised the national rule for forest planning to make the process quicker, cheaper, and more conducive to public participation.

In a series of speeches, Bosworth sought to focus public attention on four central threats to forest health: fire and fuels; invasive species; loss of working forests and rangelands to development; and outdoor recreation not managed well enough to prevent damage to natural resources. Under Bosworth’s leadership, the Forest Service focused on these so-called Four Threats, for example by adopting a new national rule for managing off-highway vehicle use on national forest land.

Bosworth presided over the Forest Service’s centennial celebration in 2005, using it to foster partnerships and support for collaborative stewardship. One of the main themes to emerge from the Centennial Congress was the need to address climate change, partly because a warming climate was contributing to worsening fire seasons in the West. Bosworth pioneered the Forest Service’s approach to dealing with climate change, carried on by Gail Kimbell, who succeeded him as Chief when he retired in 2007.

Dale Bosworth wrote: On the national forests … long-term ecosystem health drives everything we do. It determines whether or not—and where and how—we decide to cut trees. Our vegetation management projects are guided by the principle that what we leave on the land is more important than what we take away. … I think we can find common ground for deciding at the local level what our priorities and treatments should be. Today, we have amazing new opportunities for collaboration. New technologies such as the Internet allow us to work together with partners all across the landscape. … If we work together based on shared goals for the land, everyone benefits. Ecologically, we can benefit the land by restoring ecosystems to something more resembling their condition at the time of European settlement. Socially, we can benefit our local communities by helping people make themselves safer from wildland fire. Economically, we can benefit our citizens by providing jobs and by helping them take advantage of local business opportunities to utilize excess trees and brush.

From an article in Fire Management Today (based on his 2002 McClure Lecture at the University of Idaho).


US Forest Service
Last modified March 23, 2013

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