Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Clay Templin

October 6th, 2017 at 9:15AM

A photo of Clay Templin talking with reporters covering the Helena Fire in California
U.S. Forest Service Eastern Region Fire and Aviation Director Clay Templin talks with reporters covering the Helena Fire in California on Sept. 13, 2017. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service.

As the Regional Fire and Aviation Director for the Eastern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, Clay Templin is responsible for program management for 14 National Forests and one Tallgrass Prairie. “I remember looking at my dad when I told him I got offered the job and how happy I was at that moment I finally got in.” Templin said. “Little did I realize where this life journey and adventure was about to take a ranch kid from Tucson, Arizona.” His experiences on ranches near Sasabe, southwest of Tucson, led him to pursue a college degree in range management with a goal of working for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). He served on his first fire assignment in the Galiuro Wilderness in June 1980, and was hooked. He has served at almost every level of the fire organization, both in the USFS and in the Bureau of Land Management.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I especially enjoy interacting with new firefighters who are just starting their careers; the enthusiasm is contagious and it’s always a pleasure to see that desire to serve the public and work in a myriad of landscapes. Serving as an incident commander on a national Type 1 Incident Management team, assisting people in their time of need, is another highlight. It’s also rewarding to be active in international programs and helping countries in Asia contextualize the Incident Command System.   

What led you to the Forest Service and when did you start working here?

In junior high school, a family friend worked for the Forest Service in fire, and I became interested in pursuing a career with the Forest Service as well. I started working for the Coronado National Forest in May 1980, and I am a firm believer that when one door closes another will open. That attitude helped me have employment with not only the Forest Service, but Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Parks, Graham County Sheriff’s Department, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). All of those experiences and various positions, in natural resources, fire and law enforcement in both staff and line officer positions,helped me to become the individual I am.

Where did you grow up and what inspired you in your youth?

I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, and I graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in range management. My inspiration and work ethic came directly from my parents who were raised on farms and showed me the joys of working outdoors and enjoying all of the natural wonders that are found there. As a kid, we frequently went on trips across the U.S. to see family and friends, and from those experiences I have always had a traveler’s heart and wanted to see whatever is on the other side of the ridge.   

What do you like to do for fun in your free time?

I like spending time with my sons and granddaughter and I enjoy all things outdoors – fishing, hunting, golfing, hiking; and when I had horses I enjoyed team roping. These are the activities I enjoy most in my free time, along with travelling the world. I also build furniture and have remodeled kitchens and homes.


A photo of Clay Templin (left) meeting with Xian Fire Department Captain Fu in Xian, China
U.S. Forest Service Eastern Region Fire and Aviation Director Clay Templin (left) meets with Xian Fire Department Captain Fu in Xian, China. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service.

What is your highest personal and professional achievement? 

A core personal value is helping others, and being a responder to emergencies and disasters helps me fulfill that value. I can truly say I have enjoyed every job at every agency I have ever worked, whether I was a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or range specialist. I have had many more days that are diamonds than stones. Being one of eight regional fire directors for the Forest Service is my highest professional achievement. From a personal standpoint, being one of the 16 Type 1 national incident commanders and having the opportunity to serve in that capacity in two geographic areas for multiple years, along with serving as the two-term chair for the National Incident Commander/Area Commander Council, certainly is my highest personal achievement.

How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?

Every time I put on the uniform, I engage in a dialogue with folks and am always amazed how much the public appreciates the national forests and how much trust they put into us as employees to take care of them.

What are your future career goals?

As my dad was fond of saying “I was looking for a job when this one came along.” Currently, I enjoy the role I presently serve but if an opportunity for a new path comes along I’ll certainly consider it. I’m a long way from the GS-3 19-year-old kid that was horseback riding and packing mules four days a week in the Galiuro Wilderness when I started out.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?

You are only limited by your desire and pursuing the challenge. It is one of the reasons I am committed to working with Human Resource Management in a variety of committees to assist potential employees in easing the hiring process. It’s been a heck of a ride for me; working on fires for the agency in almost every state in the U.S., along with working in seven countries, including China, India and Australia. Why wouldn’t you want to work for the Forest Service?