There is a new boss at the agency in charge of managing the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Tony Tooke has been appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Sunny Perdue as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
Tooke has worked for the Forest Service since age 18 and comes to the top job from the agency’s Southern Region, where he was Regional Forester.
The previous chief, Tom Tidwell, was appointed during the Obama administration. He announced his retirement on August 18. Tidwell had worked for the agency for 40 years, and was appointed Chief in 2009.
The new head of the agency was born in Alabama and has spent much of his career working on forests in that region, and in Washington, D.C.
Perdue says that Tooke’s experience will make his transition into the top job “seamless” and that he is well aware of critical issues, like the growing cost of managing wildfires.
“He will oversee efforts to get our forests working again, to make them more productive, and to create more jobs,” Perdue said. “His focus will be on ensuring we are good neighbors and are managing our forests effectively, efficiently, and responsibly, as well as working with states and local governments to ensure the utmost collaboration.”
The Wilderness Society welcomed Tooke to the position and called for him to continue collaborating with a broad base of stakeholders in National Forest management.
“Tooke has a strong record of accomplishment in bringing together diverse interests and forging new partnerships to help the Forest Service meet the many challenges facing our nation’s forests,” said Mike Anderson, senior policy analyst with The Wilderness Society. “We look forward to working with Chief Tooke to ensure the Forest Service continues to base its forest management decisions on sound science and robust public involvement that advance those values.”
The new head of the agency could have a role in critical decisions about the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters.
The Forest Service is currently considering a proposal to prohibit mining activity on National Forest lands that drain into the Boundary Waters. The agency is also proposing a land exchange with PolyMet Mining to trade publicly-owned lands the company needs for its proposed mine. And the Forest Service is seeking to resolve a long-standing conflict over state-owned lands in the wilderness, with a plan to give the state of Minnesota federal lands outside the wilderness in exchange.