New administration: changes within the USFS

Ripples from the new Obama administration have begun spreading throughout the federal agencies. Here are some excerpts from a blog available to U.S. Forest Service employees that was written by their Associate Chief Hank Kashdan, titled: “Thoughts on Economic Recovery and the New Administration:

….Forest Service Deputy Chief, Ann Bartuska, is now filling the acting role of the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) and I am filling the role Deputy Under Secretary for NRE, Forest Service. The small group of political newcomers promptly stated their expectations and turned it over the career execs in these acting positions to start the execution. Ann has been working 100% as the Under Secretary and is rapidly moving out on climate change, better integration of science into natural resource management, and especially, laying the ground work for execution of the President’s economic recovery program.

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All of the above is not to say that the transition has been perfect. We’re working with the impacting procedures of curtailing all Federal Register notices, complete approval expectations for non-essential hiring at all levels, and controls of correspondence and congressional visits. But hey; it’s a new Administration, and we need to expect these initial procedures as the new group gets its feet on the ground.

When the President signs the economic recovery bill, we’re going to be expected to move very fast; very very fast. We’re going to be counted on to promptly issue grants and contracts, and execute projects, all with the principle objective of creating and saving JOBs.

The economic recovery is first and foremost about jobs. With recovery funds, this emphasis will offer us a tremendous opportunity to concentrate less on targets of the past (miles, acres, etc) and more on work in the right places. With an emphasis on jobs, we will be able to focus funds on some of the most expensive natural resource management projects that we have in the past avoided due to cost. Just imagine our ability to link the reduction of hazardous fuels on federal lands and non-federal lands with the opportunity to encourage the use of woody biomass for alternative energy.

Some of you have expressed great reservations about our ability to deliver the economic recovery and our regular program concurrently after years of downsizing and reduced on-the-ground capacity. We strongly empathize with this concern and don’t intend to act like we don’t share those reservations. Chief Kimbell will personally be talking about this in a future video, a letter, and with the National Leadership Council.

The reality is that we will certainly have to make some adjustments in our regular program to achieve planned targets and the recovery goals at the same time. After this initial “booster shot” to our budget with the strong expectation that the Forest Service steps up and delivers, there is almost a guaranteed certainty that out-year budgets will be highly competitive on par with the past several years.

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