The U.S. Department of Agriculture has appointed Randy Moore, a regional forester in California, as the new chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

Moore, who has served in that capacity for the Pacific Southwest in California since 2007, will become the 20th agency head and the first African American in the role, when he takes over from retiring chief Vicki Christiansen.

“Randy Moore has been 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,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

He specifically cited Moore’s leadership on conservation issues and in response to recent catastrophic wildfires and said Moore has a track record “of supporting and developing employees and putting communities at the center of the Forest Service’s work.”

Moore’s career with USDA began at the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 1978. With the Forest Service he has worked in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and North Carolina. In Washington, D.C. he served as acting Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest System and the National Deputy Soils Program Manager.

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The USDA statement says Christiansen and Moore will work together over the next several weeks to ensure a smooth transition “as the Forest Service gears up for a tough summer of predicted elevated fire activity across the Western United States.”

Christiansen’s final day is July 26.

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