Randy Moore to become US Forest Service's first African American chief

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Washington (CNN)Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will appoint Randy Moore as the new chief of the US Forest Service, making him the first African American to lead the agency once sworn in, Vilsack announced Monday.

Moore, a longtime employee of the Forest Service, will take the agency's reins just as it braces for the 2021 wildfire season, which officials say could be longer this year due to record-high temperatures in the Southwest and an intensifying drought in the region.

Vilsack said in a statement that Moore, who had been serving as regional forester in the Pacific Southwest Region in California since 2007, "has been a conservation leader on the forefront of climate change, most notably leading the Region's response to the dramatic increase in catastrophic wildfires in California over the last decade."

    "His proven track record of supporting and developing employees and putting communities at the center of the Forest Service's work positions him well to lead the agency into the future at this critical time in our country," the secretary said.

      Moore's historic appointment follows a series of leadership shake-ups at the Forest Service, whose current chief, Vicki Christiansen, came into the position in 2018 after then-Chief Tony Tooke resigned amid reports that the agency was looking into misconduct allegations against him.

        The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, said in a statement that Christiansen will leave the post on July 26 but will "continue to collaborate on an intentional leadership transition between now and then as the Forest Service gears up for a tough summer of predicted elevated fire activity across the Western United States."

        Before serving as regional forester in the Pacific Southwest Region, Moore worked as the Forest Service's regional forester for the Eastern Region, headquartered in Milwaukee, according to the department, which noted in its statement that he "started his career in conservation in 1978 with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in North Dakota."

        CNN's Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.

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