USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen today announced her retirement after a 40-year career as a professional forester, wildland firefighter, and land manager including 11 years of service at the Forest Service. Chief Christiansen brought her experience and passion for connecting people to their natural resources to her tenure as head of the Forest Service, leading more than 30,000 employees working in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued this statement:

“Chief Christiansen’s contributions to the USDA Forest Service cannot be overstated. In her more than three years as Chief, she has provided steady, thoughtful leadership through multiple challenges, including increasingly challenging fire and hurricane seasons, strains on agency budgets and workforce, and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Through it all, she has led with empathy, integrity and professionalism, advancing the agency’s work on shared stewardship, climate change, and partnerships while supporting record visitation and improving agency culture around safety and an inclusive work environment.”

“Chief Christiansen’s leadership has been informed by her 40 years of experience in natural resources and wildland fire management, including previously serving as the Forest Service’s Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry and Deputy Director for Fire and Aviation Management, the Arizona State Forester, the Washington State Forester, and for 26 years in the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.”

“While Chief Christiansen’s decision to retire will leave big boots to fill, I will work closely with the Chief and the Forest Service leadership team in the weeks ahead to support a thoughtful transition. I join many others in offering my heartfelt thanks to Vicki for her service and best wishes for a happy and fulfilling retirement.”

Christiansen stepped into the role of Chief of the Forest Service on March 8, 2018. During Christiansen’s leadership tenure, the agency relied on its strong science, innovation, and partnerships to overcome profound challenges and find new solutions to serve the public. From leading the development of new interagency safety protocols that enabled fire response during a global pandemic to bolstering relationships with partners, states and tribes to improve forest health and combat the effects of climate change, Christiansen led with community in mind.

Her focus on creating a safe, respectful and high-performing work environment led to a cultural transformation at the Forest Service and significant gains in employee morale.

Forest Service accomplishments under Christiansen’s leadership include year after year of historic timber production and millions of acres treated to reduce hazardous fuels and improve forest resilience to fire. The Forest Service also recently completed a suite of regulatory reforms to modernize and align itself to new legislative authorities that reduce regulatory burdens and expedite critical forest management work. And today, thanks to Christiansen’s collaborative approach, 50 states and territories are involved in Shared Stewardship agreements to ensure the right work gets done in the right place at the right time.

“It has truly been a privilege and an honor to serve as the Chief of the Forest Service. The time has come for me to spend more time with my family, my mom, my children, and my grandchildren. Most of my family lives a continent away, and I owe it to them to be closer so we can spend more time together. That is why I have chosen to retire.”

“I am confident that the Forest Service is on the right track, with the right priorities for the future: beating the pandemic; providing economic relief; tackling climate change; creating racial equity, and improving our workforce and our work environment in the spirit of changing our culture to become who we truly aspire to be. I have been working with Secretary Vilsack to plan for this transition and I will continue to do so in order to assure a smooth leadership transition for this agency and mission that is so important to me an so many others,” said Chief Christiansen.

Chief Christiansen will retire from federal service in August 2021.