Local News

Top USFS team to review district’s performance

USFS chief Tom Tidwell will join his team in Juneau on Wednesday (8-27-13).

USFS chief Tom Tidwell will join his team in Juneau on Wednesday (8-27-13).

Top officials from Forest Service headquarters in Washington DC are visiting Sitka this week.

Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell is not among them, although he is scheduled to join the group in Juneau on Wednesday.

The high-level visit is part of a review process that takes place once every seven years or so in the Alaska region of the US Forest Service.

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Wendy Zirngibl is a public affairs specialist with the regional office in Juneau.

She says having the boss drop in is not such a bad thing.

“We’ve been working on this for quite a few months, and I don’t know anyone who’s dreading it. We’re really looking forward to having the chief’s ear, and the ear of his leadership team to talk to them about the things that matter most to us.”

Those things that matter most fall into four areas: Sustainable Recreation and Wildernesss; Restoration and Young Growth Management; Social Relevance and Economic Development; and Workforce, Talent Management, and Budget.

Zirngibl says the four areas were chosen by regional staff. During Chief Tidwell’s visit to Juneau on Wednesday, representatives of area communities and organizations will participate in a couple of panel discussions, but otherwise the process is strictly an internal administrative review with no public input.

Zirngibl describes it as a way for agency staffers to reconnect with headquarters.

“Being in the Alaska Region we’re in the position of being remote, and we sometimes feel removed from the rest of the lower 48. So we really embrace this opportunity.”

In all, six members of the Forest Service’s executive management team were in Sitka, including the associate chief of the Forest Service Mary Wagner, and Leslie Weldon, the deputy chief of the National Forest Service System.

On Monday, they visited the Starrigavan Valley, where several forest and watershed restoration projects are in progress. The campground also has a popular cabin built from second-growth logs.

A call made to the Sitka District office was not returned by deadline for this story. Zirngibl says it’s likely staff were entertaining their Washington visitors at a potluck.

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