Dombeck takes on a new agency

  • Mike Dombeck

  Michael Dombeck spent his first hour as the new chief of the U.S. Forest Service greeting agency employees in Washington, D.C., as they headed to work. For some who had never glimpsed former Chief Jack Ward Thomas, it was a comforting gesture.

But it also became clear that old guard members of the agency should expect change. In a speech later that day, Dombeck, former acting director of the Bureau of Land Management and a fisheries biologist, told employees that timber cutting is no longer the dominant use within the Forest Service. "Every forest supervisor, on every forest," said Dombeck, 48, "will be held accountable for (improving) key areas such as streamside condition and health, water quality, watershed health, noxious weed management, and endangered species habitat management and protection."

Supporters say Dombeck might be able to modernize the Forest Service. Larry Hamilton, BLM state director for Montana, credits him with having brought new leadership to the BLM - he spoke against giving federal lands to states - and for encouraging agency managers to adopt a collaborative style of management. Still, the Forest Service is not the BLM, point out skeptics: It's three times as large with a fierce reputation for resisting change.

*Rick Keister
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