Biden Nominates Homer Wilkes to Oversee Forest Service

President Biden has recycled former Obama nominee Homer Wilkes as his Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment. Dr. Wilkes’s bio is impressive:

Dr. Homer Wilkes, a native of Port Gibson, Mississippi, currently serves as Director of Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Team. He is oneof the five Federal Executive Council member to oversee the rebuilding of the Ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Oil Spill of 2010. He served as the Acting Associate Chief of USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Washington during the period of 2010-2012. Dr. Wilkes’ tenure with the United States Department of Agriculture span’s over 41 years. During his tenure he has served as State Conservationist for Mississippi; Chief Financial Officer for NRCS in Washington, DC; Deputy State Conservationist for Mississippi; and Chief of Administrative Staff for the South Technical Center for NRCS in Fort Worth, Texas.

Dr. Wilkes also served as Naval Supply Officer in the United States Navy Reserves from November 1984 – Aprl-2007.

He received his Bachelors, Master of Business Administration, and Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education from Jackson State University. He also successfully completed the USDA Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SES CDP) through American University’s Key Executive Leadership Certificate in Public Policy. Dr. Wilkes and his wife Kim, currently reside in Ridgeland, MS. They have three sons, Justin, Austin, and Harrison. He enjoys fishing, restoring antique vehicles and family activities.

Insofar as he has no experience with the Forest Service, which under the current organizational chart is the only agency Wilkes will oversee, does his nomination suggest that Vilsack will reunite NRCS and the Forest Service under NRE?

5 thoughts on “Biden Nominates Homer Wilkes to Oversee Forest Service”

  1. I think we need someone with Forest Service and forestry experience and expertise to run the agency. Reuniting NRCS and the USFS might be a good idea (I’m agnostic personally), but in that event, Mr. Wilkes’ nomination still suggests that the USFS won’t get the attention it deserves.

  2. Nowadays, when I see “Dr.” before a government appointee’s name, I assume that he/she is not a doctor, unless it’s an appointment to a health field, in which case I’m neutral before finding out more. I learned my lesson when I found out that “Dr. Jill Biden” is not a doctor.

    Leaving that aside, I’m sure that Chris French will tell Mr. Wilkes what to do. Which is probably a good thing. It’s unfortunate that Mr. French criticized liberalizing bicycle access to Wilderness at a congressional hearing a week ago, after endorsing the same thing last November at a different hearing. Despite this, Mr. French seems like a competent guy and I’m sure he’s amply capable of advising Mr. Wilkes.

    • Wow, that’s quite condescending. Dr. Wilkes’ academic credentials are clearly outlined in the excerpt above.

      A stable, savvy, experienced career civil servant who is willing to listen to and learn from both subject matter experts within government and well-meaning external stakeholders seems like a great fit for the Undersecretary role to me. The last thing the FS needs is to become a cult of personality. To that point, Chris French is currently one of several *Deputy* Chiefs. He is not Grand Poobah (yet).

      • I’m sorry that you feel that way. Mr. Wilkes’s academic credentials seem beside the point to me. I have academic credentials but no forestry experience. I would feel a bit silly being appointed to this position. I would turn it down, feeling unqualified to assume it. If somehow compelled to take it, I would ask Mr. French and other knowledgeable employees to tell me what to do. I hope that Mr. Wilkes will be equally sensible, and I have no reason to think that he won’t be.

  3. I used to work with an Associate Chief, Dave Unger, who was from NRCS, and I thought he was terrific and we used to brief him and Chief JWT.. perhaps he accepted what we said with fewer grains of salt? Not necessarily a bad thing.

    But to Andy’s question, as I go through the public comment on the Climate Smart Ag and Forestry request for comments, it’s pretty clear that “all lands all hands” or whatever you call it .. 30×30, landscape scale restoration, requires the two USDA agencies (FS and NRCS) to work closely with each other. I don’t know if having one undersecretary for both helps but it probably doesn’t hurt. As I understand it, in the Obama Administration Robert Bonnie was involved in direction and decisions so there are plenty of experienced political folk around, likely to be minimal drama.


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