BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on the appointment of a female firefighter as interim head of the U.S. Forest Service as the agency struggles to deal with misconduct within its ranks (all times local):
The newly-appointed head of the U.S. Forest Service says the agency faces “hard truths” about harassment and retaliation in its ranks following the departure of her predecessor amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Interim Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said in a Friday email to employees that she stands with them and will take steps to make the agency a safe workplace.
She was appointed to the post Thursday to replace Tony Tooke.
Tooke abruptly retired this week amid revelations he was under investigation and accused of relationships with subordinates.
Lawmakers in Congress and other observers say Tooke’s troubles reflect broader and longstanding cultural problems within the male-dominated Forest Service.
Christiansen has spent her career as a wildland firefighter and joined the Forest Service in 2010.
A female wildland firefighter has been tapped by the Trump administration to steady the U.S. Forest Service as it reels from allegations of sexual misconduct and struggles to change its male-dominated culture.
Vicki Christensen was appointed interim chief of the 35,000-employee agency late Thursday.
The move came roughly 24 hours after former Chief Tony Tooke stepped down amid an investigation into his alleged relationships with subordinates.
The events renewed calls from Congress to more aggressively address longstanding and rampant problems of sexual harassment, bullying and in some cases rape.
Christiansen has been with the Forest Service for seven years and became a deputy chief in 2016. Before joining the federal government she’d worked in forestry for 30 years at the state level, in Arizona and Washington.