A former Tongass National Forest supervisor has been chosen as the first woman to head the U.S. Forest Service, succeeding Dale Bosworth.
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Gail Kimbell is a Montana forester who supervises national forests through northern Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas. She was appointed to the position by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, agency officials said Friday.
She becomes the Forest Service's 16th chief and the first woman to head the agency. Bosworth, a career forester who became chief in April 2001, will step down within a few weeks.
From 1991 until 1997, Kimbell worked as a forest supervisor based in Petersburg.
"I am thrilled to death that the new chief is going to have pretty good
Alaska experience," said Tongass Supervisor Forrest Cole. "I have worked with Gail and I am sure she will do an excellent job."
Bosworth joined the agency as a forester in 1966 and climbed the ranks through a series of jobs in Washington state, Utah and Montana.
As chief, he was a key player in President Bush's program to increase timber sales and auction off oil and gas leases in roadless areas of national forests. The Clinton administration had put that land off-limits to commercial development.
Among the most controversial decisions has been the Bush administration's promotion of logging in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the nation's largest.
Some of the areas the Clinton administration had tried to protect have trails and roads, but many are considered pristine havens for wildlife and waterways or are prized for their scenery and recreation.
"It's my belief that most users want to do the right thing," Bosworth said in 2005 about his agency's plans to encourage off-road enthusiasts to use the forests in an environmentally friendly way.
In October, a government study blamed the administration, not lawsuits by environmentalists, for adding to the costs of logging to salvage timber from an Oregon wildfire.
The administration and Republican allies had contended that lawsuits filed by environmentalists led to the increased costs.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
Brittany Retherford can be reached at email@example.com.