The USDA Forest Service lost a dear colleague and friend on April 18, 2019. She was 55.
Janet Leak-Garcia served as the National Program Leader for tribal and wilderness research in the Washington Office Research and Development Deputy Area where she was respected for her work in providing innovative opportunities for tribal communities and native students.
In partnership with the Wildlife Society she assisted in the coordination of the Native American Research Assistantship program, which provides Native American wildlife students with summer assistantship opportunities with Forest Service scientists.
Janet believed in creative and innovative scientific approaches, protecting the land, upholding federal-tribal trust obligations and promoting responsible and sincere relationships with tribes. Together with the Intertribal Timber Council’s research committee, she co-led a team of scientists and tribal natural resource professionals to initiate a tribal research needs assessment to codify natural resource research needs of tribes.
A passionate advocate for tribal and wilderness research, she devoted her efforts to creating partnerships between the agency and tribes, between the agency and The Wildlife Society and to using strategic thinking to overcome complex land management challenges.
“We are shaped by our myriad experiences”, she once wrote, “viewed through the lens of our own equally valid perspectives. Respect and compassion for each person’s unique history, personality, circumstances and challenges is the only one-size-fits-all answer that I know.”
Janet earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Mathematics at San Diego State University and her PhD from the University of California, Riverside, in population and evolutionary genetics. Janet was recognized by Cuyamaca College, her junior college alma mater where she delivered a commencement speech to the 2018 graduating class. She joined the Forest Service R&D in 2012 as a policy analyst. In 2017, Janet graduated from the USDA Forest Service Senior Leader Program and formed many close bonds with her classmates and mentors from across the Nation.
She is survived by her daughter, extended family and friends.