Leadership Corner

Crossing boundaries and sharing stewardship sustains forests and lives

September 5th, 2017 at 7:30PM


Vicki Christiansen, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry

For more than 100 years, the Forest Service has been a beacon of conservation, sustaining the natural resources that support people’s lives. We are valued both for what we do and for how we do it. What we do is demonstrated in healthy landscapes, empowered partners and actions informed by science.

How do we do it?

The answer lies with our employees. Each of us is the living embodiment of what our agency stands for. All of us, collectively engaging with co-workers, partners and the public, bring our mission to life! And I think we have a really great mission … To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Our purpose at the Forest Service is to help sustain the ability of America’s forest and grasslands, both public and private, to deliver a full range of services for generations to come … but we certainly can’t do it alone! We do it by continually strengthening our ties to the community and sharing stewardship with others. We do it by making connections with the people we work with and serve.

There is a little saying, really a mantra for me, which helps remind me of the importance of making a connection, and it is: “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” This little saying personifies the value of inclusion, and the value of taking time to understand what others care about. For me, it helps build and strengthen a sense of community with others.

There are 766 million acres of forestlands in the U.S., with two-thirds owned by states, tribes, local governments, businesses and millions of private citizens. We are privileged to directly manage 193 million acres, assist other landowners in managing and sustaining their forests, and provide high quality science and research for all forest landowners. Our unique mission helps connect people to ALL forests! When we are more deliberate in taking a shared stewardship approach and “being in community” with others, we take better care of people, we take better care of our collective natural resources, and we help maintain and strengthen the economic vitality of our country. 

The “vantage point” or “context” in how we see our work can be really helpful. When we think of a landscape-scale system (all lands, communities and people), we are more likely to see and understand the ecological, economic and social interdependence. Outcomes can be achieved at greater scales when we overcome the historic process of ecological and administrative fragmentation.

“Crossing Boundaries” is a simple way to think about overcoming these fragmentations, which include jurisdictional boundaries, cultural boundaries, professional discipline boundaries, work unit boundaries and generational boundaries. By crossing boundaries and working with communities and partners, we can better restore and maintain ecosystem and financial health across the whole landscape. And by crossing boundaries we help strengthen ties to the community, and to those whose lives or livelihoods are dependent on the land.

The Forest Service’s unique mission, what we do, is to sustain the nation’s forests and grasslands, the why we do it is to sustain people’s lives, and the how we do it is by crossing boundaries and sharing stewardship with others. Wherever we are, we should all think about our role in crossing boundaries and sharing stewardship.

For more on Vicki’s thoughts on leadership as well as other topics related to life in the Forest Service check out this podcast.