Chief Tooke’s Five National Priorities

Chief Tony Tooke

Here’s a link:

Five Priorities for Our Work

These five national priorities do three things: They give urgency and focus to critical needs; help foster the work environment we want for our employees; and set expectations for the manner in which we accomplish our work with citizens, partners, volunteers, and each other.

1. Uplifting and empowering our employees through a respectful, safe working environment.

I have enormous respect and admiration for the work every employee does. I am committed to ensuring our work environment is safe, rewarding, respectful, free of harassment, and resilient—that every one of you works in an environment where you are recognized and valued for your contributions. I want every employee to be empowered to continuously improve our work.

2. Being good neighbors and providing excellent customer service.

We will work with efficiency and integrity with a focus on the people we serve. I envision a broad, diverse coalition for conservation, working across boundaries and using all authorities available to us. We have a backlog of special use permits, range allotment work and deferred maintenance and other needs to address. To increase customer service, we must understand customer requirements, expand our use of best practices, apply innovative tools, and address barriers that get in the way of doing good work. Each and every visitor, forest or grassland user, contractor, partner, cooperator, permittee, volunteer, and citizen deserves our very best service.

3. Promoting shared stewardship by increasing partnerships and volunteerism.

We can’t do this alone and only on National Forest System lands. It takes others to help us make a difference on the whole landscape. We will work with all citizens—from rural and urban communities—as we pursue the work in front of us. Strengthening and expanding partner and volunteer programs around shared values is critical for a sustainable future.

4. Improving the condition of forests and grasslands.

About 80 million acres of the National Forest System are at risk from insect disease and wildfire. About one-third of these lands are at very high risk. Drinking water, homes, communities, wildlife habitat, historic places, sacred sites, recreation opportunities, and scenic vistas are among many of the values at risk of loss. Having sustainable, healthy, resilient forests and grasslands in the future depends on our ability to increase work on the ground and get increased outcomes. We will use all management tools and authorities available to us to improve the condition of our forests and rangelands. Improving the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental analysis and decision-making processes will help us increase our capacity and ability to improve the condition of forests and rangelands. This work will also restore ecosystem function, deliver dependable energy, provide jobs and economic benefits for rural communities, and be responsive to the American taxpayer.

5. Enhancing recreation opportunities, improving access, and sustaining infrastructure.

Most Americans experience the national forests and grasslands through recreation activities. Although these lands offer some of the most valued outdoor recreation settings in this country, the settings and visitor experiences are increasingly at risk. Deteriorating recreation facilities and roads, eroding trails, and increasing user conflicts pose numerous challenges and a decline in the quality of the visitor experience. Currently, we can only maintain to standard half of our roads, trails, facilities, and other components of our infrastructure. Access to the National Forest System is more limited. We will take steps to address these challenges and create more enhanced, sustainable recreation opportunities, access, and infrastructure to better meet the needs of visitors, citizens, and users.

NEPA environmental analysis and decision-making improvements can help us achieve goals and objectives for enhanced recreation, improved access, and a more sustainable infrastructure.

The Chief also asks:

My questions for you are: What do you see standing in your way? What are you experiencing that we can collectively learn from?

I’d be interested in how folks on the blog might answer this question, just substitute “they” for “we” if you’re not an employee.

30 thoughts on “Chief Tooke’s Five National Priorities”

  1. Hmmm, no mention of outsourcing forestry work to private land management companies? That is what I see in the near future of the Forest Service, once they decide that implementation is slow. There are some issues you NEVER see the Forest Service talk about, and Temporary Employees is one of them. The bosses don’t want to change. The rank and file are scared to step up and say anything. The Union has done little over the decades. Congress won’t fund a career ladder.

    On a related note, the Forest Service is continuing their search for young Foresters, 35 and younger. Old farts will be rejected, as per Agency official Job Announcements.

  2. This is frightening stuff, although by no means new; its a clear reflection of what the forest service, and the public service in general, has become. Its no longer the public they deal with, or act for, but “clients” and “customers”; how corporately convenient is that.

    So its now about being good neighbors, all of course, while “improving” ecological function. Painfully naive, but more of the corporate role that public services are sinking into. How about sticking to the rule of law (even, as we continue to see, that law is quickly being eroded in favor of special interests, volunteerism, neighborliness, and collaboration). What this really signals, is goodbye “best available science” goodbye democratic process, and goodbye equal treatment of all members of the public.

    And how does this character intend to reduce “increasing user conflict”? More roads! really, that will no doubt “fix” the “setting”. And more mountain bikes; since when does more aggression and more speed “enhance” forest lands, and reduce conflict with peaceful, traditional interactions with the natural world?

    There is so much wrong with this guy, and his “we’re only here to make you and everyone else happy” mentality, I dread the future for Americans, biodiversity, Endangered species, and mostly, the powerful stimulus equal ownership of and legitimate, respectful, and environmentally regulated access have had for freedom.

    • Dr. Brian

      I’m not sure how you can say this “says goodbye to “best available science” and the democratic process and equal treatment of all members of the public””. Should people not volunteer or be neighborly? Could you explain more about how you draw the linkage between what Tony said and your points?

    • Mr. Horejsi, I’m so glad your scared, I used to believe this stuff ! When I retired to the Rocky Mountains from New Jersey, to an area that is over 80% public land and saw for myself the current condition of our National forest, I did a complete 180… over mature, neglected, bug infested,diseased trees that die by the thousand every year, adding to the million of dead standing and on the ground already, preventing new growth, they then burn with such intensity that they sterilize the soil so no regeneration takes place for decades. Your buz words assure me that you have never set foot in our forests, if you have and still say this stuff you must have an agenda that requires destroying our forests. Science my eye!.

      • Howdy Carol. “Your buz words assure me that you have” no understanding about the ecology of forested ecosystems in the northern Rockies.

        • Put down the kool-aid Matt. You suggest I ignore what is right in front of my eyes and believe what you read in a book? Don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself !

          • Howdy Carol. I’ve gotten out into the forests of the northern Rockies plenty, and likely a hell of a lot more than you have, especially since it sounds like you just moved to Montana from the wilds of New Jersey.

            For the record, your allegation that Dr. Brian L. Horejsi has “never set foot in our forests” is just asinine. You know why?

            Because Dr. Horejsi is a wildlife scientist and a forester! He earned a bachelor of science in forestry from the Montana State University and then a PhD in the behavioral ecology of large mammals from the University of Calgary with his study of bighorn sheep. He began his professional career as a research biologist with what was then the Yukon Game Branch, working with the Porcupine caribou herd. Since then his research activities include an extended field study of the impact of the oil and gas industry on grizzly bears, black bears and moose in the boreal forest, separate analyses of the status of the grizzly bear population and its habitat in southwest Alberta, the endangered international Granby grizzly bear population and the Purcell population endangered by the Jumbo ski resort proposal. He has also conducted research on the impact of industrialization, motorized access, and recreational and agricultural activities on bighorn and Dall Sheep, moose, caribou and black bears.

            P.S. Carol, I’d always love to hear what, in your mind, constitutes an “over mature” tree.

            • Howdy back Matt, we can line up scientists on every side of this with credentials to the moon. Nothing changes the fact our forests are in bad shape, instead of healthy fire (sounds like you know what that is) we have catastrophic, the pollution generated by these fires rival the output of many major cities, not to mention the damage to the watershed and habitat. If you think the forest is not in need of restoration then we are both wasting our breath.
              By the way I’ve been here over 10 years and you can research over mature forests if you feel like it.

              • Howdy Carol. Ok, so what scientists do you have lined up to support your curious notions about forests in the northern Rockies?

                Remember, YOU are the only would made the asinine claim that Dr. Brian L. Horejsi has “never set foot in our forests.”

                Again, I will ask what in your mind, constitutes an “over mature” tree or forest.

                Finally, which wildfires in Montana this past summer were “catastrophic” compared to a “healthy fire?”

                Since you moved out of the wilds of New Jersey to Montana ten years ago you certainly must understanding that different forest types have very different fire regimes, right? Do you know that low-elevation, dry montane forest account for a measly 4% of the entire forested landscape in Montana and North Idaho? Do you realize that the vast majority of forest ecosystems in Montana evolved with mixed- to high-severity fire, which I assume you are calling “catastrophic?”

                I’m glad you found this blog. I’m less thrilled that you introduced yourself here with an insult directed at Dr. Horejsi. So, you may want to buckle up and be prepared to defend some of your comments and statements here because I won’t let them pass without a request that you provide evidence. Cheers!

                • I don’t need to defend my actual real life experience, it is what it is . Are you saying I can change your view? I doubt that..not that I want to! You’re entitled to your experience I’m entitled to mine. This is pointless.
                  Over mature trees are trees that live in an environment that cannot support their continued growth. too dense, to much competition for water and nutrients, to little sunlight reaching them. it’s a slow death and invitation for insects,disease.

                    • Oh brother.. call the USFS, if you want information. It is clear that you just want to attack anyone who’s experience doesn’t match your agenda . Last word belongs to you, I’ve wasted enough time.

                    • Hi Carol. Please take responsibility for your own words. Why would I call the U.S. Forest Service when it is YOU who made that statement that “instead of healthy fire we have catastrophic fire.”

                      So, again, my question to you is: “Which wildfires in Montana this past summer were ‘catastrophic’ compared to a ‘healthy fire?'”

                      You obviously are having a hard time answering that question. This has nothing to do with experience matching anyone’s agenda. It’s also ironic that you complain about an “attack” when it was YOU who opened up your comments here with the asinine claim that Dr. Brian L. Horejsi has “never set foot in our forests.”

                      Sure, leave and never answer simple questions about your own words. Sure, never take responsibility for your own words. That’s on you, Carol. And I won’t forget it. Cheers!

                      P.S. Forest Service releases soil burn severity maps for some Montana wildfires

                      P.P.S. You may be interested in some community fuel reduction work we did in the DeBorgia Community in 2006 and 2007. Check it out here, here and here.

                    • Howdy Kevin. Maybe I could care less what you think. I will continue to hold people accountable for their words on this blog. Cheers.

                    • Matthew Koehler: “Howdy Kevin. Maybe I could care less what you think.”

                      Oh I have every confidence in the truth of that

  3. “About 80 million acres of the National Forest System are at risk from insect disease and wildfire.”

    One has to wonder if, say 300 years ago – before the United States of America and the U.S. Forest Service even existed – how many of these same acres were “at risk from insect, disease and wildfire?” I’m willing to bet it would be about 80 million acres +/-.

    Also, I heard a breaking news report that 7.6 billion people in the world are currently at risk from disease, cancer, infections and even death. Crazy times we are ‘living’ in, eh?

      • “How many Americans are currently at risk to smoke impacts and wildfire dangers?”

        I’m not sure of the exact number currently, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s pretty low. Here’s the official EPA “Air Now” reading:

        • I guess what I meant to say was; How many millions of people could see annual summer smoke impacts and wildfire dangers, across the country, due to currently overstocked and unhealthy forests, drought conditions and inevitable wildfires? Those numbers would be in the tens of millions of people, including elderly and children, with no way to escape.

  4. We need to change the general public’s opinion of what a working forest is. We need to spread the word that a working forest is cleaning the air that every living creature breathes. We need an immense social media marketing campaign that educates and entices young capable workers to take a look at working in our forests as foresters, loggers and equipment operators.
    The general public has to understand that this is a renewable resource that needs to be managed by, foresters and guess who? Hard working loggers who risk their lives to bring us the forest products we see all around every day in our homes. I have more forest products in my home than food! We need the loggers who work on thin margins to do what they love, where they love to do it. Without loggers risking their lives, and some sacrificing their lives to bring us the products we can’t seem to live without, where would we be? The public must understand that they are the driving force behind the forest products chain….on the opposite end of the logger.

    • Your so right Wendy, Loggers were our first responders to forest fire and they created more habitat for all forest life every year than all the so called wildlife groups combined.

  5. The priorities will only work if employees are also assigned tasks that can reasonably be met in an agreeable time frame. You can’t expect more with fewer employees and reduced funding.


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