WASHINGTON (AP) – Montana forester Tom Tidwell is the new head of the U.S. Forest Service.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that Tidwell will replace Gail Kimbell, who had led the Forest Service since 2007.

Tidwell is a 32-year Forest Service employee and now supervises national forests through northern Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas. He began his career at the Boise National Forest, and has since worked in eight different national forests across three regions.

He has worked at all levels of the agency, from district ranger to forest supervisor and legislative affairs specialist in the Washington headquarters.

Michael Francis, acting vice president of The Wilderness Society, called Tidwell a good choice. He said Tidwell has been a strong supporter of protecting wild lands, including roadless areas in remote forests.

Tidwell worked with a variety of groups as Idaho developed a state policy governing roadless areas. Idaho was the only state exempted from a recent order by Vilsack drastically slowing down approval of new road projects in national forests.

As regional forester, “Tidwell has made himself accessible to all parties with an interest in how national forests are managed, including conservation, recreation and timber interests,” Francis said.

Chris Wood, chief operating officer of Trout Unlimited, a fisheries conservation organization, said Tidwell faces a variety of challenges.

“Tom has proven his conservation mettle time and time again during his distinguished, 30-plus-year career in the Forest Service,” Wood said.

Wood cited in particular Tidwell’s role in enacting a 2000 law that reimburses rural timber counties for revenues lost as a result of federal policies protecting the spotted owl and other endangered species.

AP-ES-06-17-09 1644EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.