Leadership Corner

A wonderful time of year

December 15th, 2017 at 11:30AM


U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year. It’s the season where we reflect on our accomplishments and celebrate the progress we are making together to restore healthy and resilient forests and grasslands across America and meet our commitment to public service.

Among the season’s highlights in our nation’s capital is the delivery of the annual Christmas tree to Capitol Hill, known as the “People’s Tree.” This year’s gift came from Kootenai National Forest in Montana. We celebrated its delivery last week with special events that included a reception at USDA, where Secretary Sonny Perdue opened the holiday season by lighting a national forest tree on the Whitten Patio. It ended with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hosting a national ceremony to light the 79-foot Engelmann spruce from Montana on the West Lawn of the Capitol. We extend our gratitude to the employees and citizens of Montana who worked in partnership with Choose Outdoors to support the year-long effort to celebrate and deliver the Capitol Tree.

The National Leadership Council joined me and other Forest Service employees for these special celebrations as a part of our quarterly leadership meeting. During this meeting we worked on two topics: our ongoing commitment to improve the work environment and implementing our national priorities. We discussed our next steps to rid our organization of all forms of harassment. It will take the teamwork of all of us in the agency to create the respectful, harassment-free work environment all employees deserve. In 2018, we will launch a national training session on anti-harassment for all employees as part of our continual improvement.

I expect us to only gain momentum next year as we further engage with all employees and work together to permanently change our culture so it in no way tolerates harassment or discrimination in any form.  Accomplishing this goal is foundational to delivering our mission and serving the American people.

Secondly, we brainstormed on innovative actions we can take to implement the five national priorities. These include:

  • Uplifting and empowering our employees through a respectful, safe working environment
  • Being good neighbors and providing excellent customer service
  • Promoting shared stewardship by increasing partnerships and volunteerism
  • Improving the condition of forests and grasslands
  • Enhancing recreation opportunities, improving access and sustaining infrastructure

We also reviewed and discussed a range of innovative ideas that included changing the way we accomplish work so we break down barriers that stand in the way of employees and remove unnecessary processes that delay progress. I am looking forward to further fleshing out our collective ideas.

So it’s an opportune time for me to hear from you.

A few weeks ago, I asked you to share your thoughts on how we better accomplish work on our national priorities and some of you have been writing to me. Please use the following link to submit your ideas, questions and feedback. Your comments and questions are greatly appreciated and will help inform how we implement the priorities to increase results and improve outcomes on the ground.  Please click this link to join the discussion.

We ended our week with the presentation of the 2017 Chief’s Honor Awards. This year’s ceremony offered us the opportunity to honor the tremendous contributions of our employees from around the country. We presented 14 awards that highlighted achievements in Fostering Volunteerism and Service, Sustaining Our National Forests and Grasslands, Applying Knowledge Globally, Excelling as a High-Performing Agency and Delivering Benefits to the American People. If you missed it, you can still watch a video of the awards ceremony.

The awards gave us a small snapshot of the many achievements that have occurred across the nation, in addition to our extraordinary response with our interagency partners and communities to a record fire season and devastating hurricanes. I am inspired by the commitment of all of our employees who work with partners and volunteers to make a difference. Thank you all for your continued, incredible work in 2017 to deliver our mission.

I look forward to working with you in 2018 to enhance our collective capacity and talents to accomplish our mission, deliver outstanding customer service and better respond to the pressing needs of our day.

In whatever way you celebrate, I wish you all the best. I hope you and your families and friends have the most wonderful, safe holiday season possible.

Chief Tooke