Vicki Christiansen selected interim Forest Service Chief

She replaces Tony Tooke who suddenly resigned March 7.

Victoria Christiansen

Above: Vicki Christiansen testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee August 3, 2017.

(Originally published at 10:25 a.m. MST March 9, 2018)

Amid reports of widespread sexual harassment and misconduct within the Forest Service, and especially among firefighters, a woman will now lead the agency. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has selected Victoria (Vicki) Christiansen to be the interim Chief of the Forest Service. She replaces Tony Tooke who suddenly resigned March 7 after allegations of sexual misconduct were aired on the PBS program NewsHour.

Below is an excerpt from a message Mr. Perdue sent to employees Thursday afternoon:

With seven years at the Forest Service and 30 with the states of Arizona and Washington, Vicki knows what is needed to restore our forests and put them back to work for the taxpayers. As a former wildland firefighter and fire manager, she knows first-hand that failure to properly maintain forests leads to longer and more severe fire seasons. And as a former State Forester, she knows the benefits of Good Neighbor Authority and how best to partner with our state and local colleagues. Vicki’s professional experience will complement these efforts and help us achieve those objectives.

As we promote and maintain healthy, productive forests and preserve our natural resources, we will work to ensure a place where people can work with respect and dignity.

Ms. Christiansen has experience in wildland fire suppression. After obtaining a degree in forestry at the University of Washington in 1983 she accrued firefighting experience with the Washington Department of Natural Resources. There is one report that she was qualified to use fireline explosives. Thirteen years after graduating she was the Washington State Forester. Between 2006 and 2012 she served in five different positions with the Washington DNR, Arizona Division of Forestry, and the U.S. Forest Service. Her last job before becoming interim USFS Chief was Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry with the USFS.

In a Senate committee hearing August 3, 2017 Ms. Christiansen talked about budget issues and logging. She was also asked about water scooping air tankers by Senator Maria Cantwell. Here is the official transcript at 52:50, which was compiled from uncorrected Closed Captioning.

MISS CHRISTIANSEN, WHAT DO YOU MAKE ABOUT THE WATER USING THE SCOOPING TECHNOLOGY? WHY ARE WE CONCLUDING THAT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA?

>> THANK YOU, SENATOR CANTWELL. WATER SCOOPERS ARE CERTAINLY A TOOL IN OUR AVIATION STRATEGY. WE HAVE NOT CONCLUDED THEY ARE INEFFECTIVE. BUT AS YOU KNOW, IN OUR PROPOSED FY18 BUDGET WE HAD TO MAKE SOME CRITICAL CHOICES. TO BE STEWARDS OF THE TAXPAYER DOLLARS. TO THAT MAKING, WE ARE NOT PLANNING TO HOLD AN EXCLUSIVE USE CONTRACT BUT CAN ACCESS THESE THROUGH CALL [WHEN] NEEDED MECHANISMS. WE HAVE TWO UNDER EXCLUSIVE USE CONTRACT.

Victoria Christiansen
Forest Service National Director of Fire and Aviation Management Shawna Legarza (on the right) briefs Sonny Perdue and Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) at the Forest Service for a 2017 fire briefing, in the USDA Forest Service Headquarters, Yates Building Fire Desk, on Sept. 26, 2017. Victoria Christiansen is on Ms. Legarza’s right. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

We first wrote about Ms. Christiansen May 14, 2009:

Victoria Christiansen
A screenshot from a Wildfire Today article published May 14, 2009.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

2 thoughts on “Vicki Christiansen selected interim Forest Service Chief”

  1. I served over 35 years for the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. During that time I was fortunate to meet and work with the many outstanding and excellent employee’s they have, I find it very disappointing and disheartening to see this great agency being destroyed by people who evidently can not stand up to the great agency values and standards. As a young Fire Crew Foreman on the R-5 El Cariso Hotshots in 1966 I learned what leadership, trust and teamwork was all about. The lessons learned served me for my entire career lets hope that these values are carried forward by the agency.

  2. I currently head the Wildfire Division at the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources. What follows are my personal comments – they are not intended to speak for WDNR in any way. I have had the pleasure of knowing Vicki as a co-worker, supervisor and close friend for my entire 26+yr WDNR career, and followed her as the Washington State Forester for a couple of years after she left us for Arizona. I have worked closely with her in several capacities, including as one of her assistants when she was a Region Manager here at WDNR. I consider Vicki one of my mentors and I can’t imagine that there could be a better choice to head the USFS in this difficult time. Vicki is inclusive, collaborative, caring, forward-thinking, and thoughtful, and ALWAYS has the best interest of the citizens and of her employees in the forefront of her thinking. (And yes, she was a FLEA [Fireline Explosives Advisor] and DIVS [Division Supervisor]).

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