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Leadership Corner

The Greatest Good

Tom Tidwell
Chief, U.S. Forest Service
January 24, 2017 at 9:30am

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. I was asked recently what the Forest Service mission meant to me. There are three words that always come to mind any time I think about what we do … the greatest good.

Founder of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot said that where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question shall always be answered from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.

Our mission is varied and complex, but the concept of doing our best for the largest amount of people is much simpler. We will always strive to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.

This month we put an emphasis on conserving open space.  Open space provides vital ecosystem services and benefits to this nation. But every day we lose more and more of our forests, grasslands, wetlands and urban greenspaces. This affects everything from the ability to deliver clean air and water to outdoor recreation.

The way we will continue to conserve open space is by: 1) Protecting the most ecologically and socially important lands; 2) Conserving working lands as sustainable forests and grasslands; 3) Expanding and connecting open spaces in cities, suburbs, and towns; and 4) Reducing the potential ecological impacts and risks of development.

But none of this would be possible without the dedicated men and women working everyday across the Forest Service.

I started working for the forest service 38 years ago because I had a desire to be a part of conservation efforts for our nation’s forests and because I grew up loving the outdoors. I had an opportunity to work where I play – to have a career doing what I love. Over nearly four decades, I have seen the Forest Service mission in action – at the forest-level, at the district, and now as the chief. Throughout that time I have continuously seen dedicated people working to conserve open space. I have met countless individuals who love their jobs and who are passionate about sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands.

It is through their work that we can continue to achieve our mission. It is through their work that we can continue to do the greatest good. We are responsible for 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. From rangers at the forests to the brave men and women fighting wildfires when called upon to the individuals doing ground-breaking work at our research stations and those performing vital business operations – every one of these individuals is working in a concerted effort to sustain that land, to live our mission, and to do the greatest good.

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