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Randy Moore Will Be the First Black Chief of the Forest Service in its 116-Year History

Under Randy Moore’s incoming leadership, the Forest Service is facing down one of the ugliest fire seasons in memory.

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Randy Moore, a 43-year veteran of the United States Department of Agriculture, will be the new head of the Forest Service, making him the first Black leader to head up the agency in its 116-year history, the Biden Administration announced on Monday.

In a press release, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called Moore “a catalyst for change and creativity in carrying out the Forest Service’s mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.”

“Randy has been a conservation leader on the forefront of climate change, most notably leading the Region’s response to the dramatic increase in catastrophic wildfires in California over the last decade,” Vilsack said. “His  proven track record of supporting and developing employees and putting communities at the center of the Forest Service’s work positions him well to lead the agency into the future at this critical time in our country.”

After joining the USDA in 1978, Moore worked in a variety of roles in forests and grasslands across Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, and also served  in Washington D.C. as acting associate deputy chief for the National Forest System and the national deputy Soils Program manager. Since 2007, he has served as regional forester for California’s Pacific Southwest Region, where he oversees 18 national forests covering 20 million acres—an area larger than the Czech Republic. In his new role, he’ll oversee everything from hiking infrastructure to fire suppression to timber sales on 193 million acres of Forest Service land, covering roughly 8 percent of the United States’ territory.

Moore’s tenure has coincided with a dramatic increase in fire activity in California: Thirteen of the state’s 20 largest fires, as well as eight of its deadliest blazes, have occurred since 2007. That experience will likely come in useful as the U.S. stares down what looks like it will be a historically bad fire season, which has already closed national forests around hard-hit Arizona. Last year, the Forest Service took the same measures for Moore’s region, closing all 18 national forests in California due to fire danger. At the time, Moore called the temporary closures “necessary to protect the public and our firefighters.”

In a statement, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) applauded Moore’s appointment, calling him “an excellent choice” to lead the Forest Service.

“California understands all too well the challenges facing our forests and I’m glad a Californian will head efforts to tackle them,” Feinstein said.

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