Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wasted no time in appointing a new chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
Longtime chief Tom Tidwell announced his retirement on Aug. 18 and on Aug. 21 Perdue announced Tony Tooke will serve as the new U.S. Forest Service chief.
Tooke has worked for the Forest Service since age 18 and currently is the Regional Forester for the Southern Region.
Tidwell had worked for the Forest Service for 40 years, starting as a firefighter. He rose through the ranks to a District Ranger, Forest Supervisor and then to the head of the U.S. Forest Service, leading more than 30,000 employees working in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue praised Chief Tidwell, saying, “From the start, we have relied on Chief Tidwell’s experience and counsel, drawing on his years of experience both in the field and in Washington. The Forest Service will miss the benefit of his knowledge but we wish him well on his retirement after more than 40 years of service with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
Tidwell was appointed Chief of the Forest Service on June 17, 2009. His final day in office will be Sept. 1, 2017.
Tooke is responsible for 3,100 employees, an annual budget exceeding $400 million, 14 national forests, and two managed areas, which encompass more than 13.3 million acres in 13 states and Puerto Rico.
His previous position in Washington, D.C. was Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest System; with oversight of Lands and Realty, Minerals and Geology, Ecosystem Management Coordination, Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers, the National Partnership Office, and Business Administration and Support Services.
As Associate Deputy Chief, Tooke was the Forest Service Executive Lead for Environmental Justice; Farm Bill implementation; and implementation of the Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Improvement Strategy. Another priority included implementation of a new planning rule for the National Forest System.
Also in the WO, Tooke served as Director for Ecosystem Management Coordination, Deputy Director for Economic Recovery, and Assistant Director for Forest Management.
“Tony has been preparing for this role for his whole professional life, and at a time when we face active and growing fires, his transition into leadership will be seamless," Perdue said. "He will oversee efforts to get our forests working again, to make them more productive, and to create more jobs. 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. No doubt, the stewardship of our forests is an awesome and sacred responsibility, and no one knows that better than Tony who has dedicated his career to this noble cause."
Tooke grew up on a 200-acre farm in Detroit, Alabama. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Forestry from Mississippi State University. He was in the Forest Service’s inaugural class of the Senior Leadership Program, and he has completed the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program.