Here’s the announcement from the USDA:
Statement from Under Secretary Harris Sherman
“After four years of having the privilege to work alongside the enormously talented, hard working people at USDA, and especially my colleagues in the United States Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, I am today announcing my upcoming departure from USDA.
We have worked together to accomplish tremendous things in the past four years. With the Forest Service, we developed a new Planning Rule for management of our national forests and grasslands, accelerated restoration of millions of acres of forests and watersheds, and supported traditional forest products and other uses of the national forests. We expanded recreation opportunities and supported thousands of recreation-related jobs, protected Native American sacred sites, and invested in our young people and veterans by giving them jobs and training opportunities. We worked with partners around the country to create new public-private partnerships, fostering an ethic of collaboration. In addition, we protected communities from catastrophic wildfires, supported State and private forest landowners, and conducted critical forest research.
With NRCS, we invested in landscape scale conservation from the Chesapeake Bay to the Everglades to the Bay Delta. We enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation practices, expanded the application of voluntary certainty and safe harbor agreements with individual landowners, introduced new programs and technology that will support the ability of private landowners to implement conservation practices and protect wildlife, and assisted Gulf Coast states and landowners in addressing water quality impacts to the Gulf of Mexico. We also played a leadership role in responding to natural disasters from Hurricane Sandy to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish. I thank the President and Secretary Vilsack for their leadership and for having given me the opportunity to serve my country in this role. While this has been a very difficult decision for me, I believe it is a good time to transition to new leadership and I have every confidence that my successor will continue to achieve the results that I’ve witnessed from NRCS and the Forest Service over these past years.”
Statement from Secretary Tom Vilsack
Over the past four years, Under Secretary Harris Sherman has led a comprehensive push to enhance and modernize the ways in which we conserve our forests and protect our natural resources. Under his leadership, USDA carried out a record level of conservation work alongside farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. He led the way to a modernized forest planning policy that recognizes the multiple uses of our forests, and will lead to more resilient forests and greater rural economic opportunity. Harris helped target our conservation efforts in priority areas, and forged new partnerships that have strengthened a collaborative approach to landscape conservation and forest restoration. As a result, even in a time of tighter budgets, USDA is in a position to continue achieving positive results in conservation for decades to come. I appreciate his service to our nation, and I wish Harris Sherman all the best in the future.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
The Coloradan who has headed the U.S. Forest Service is leaving after a tumultuous four years when the agency did battle with ski areas and fought some of the state’s most destructive blazes. Harris Sherman, a former head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, will leave his post May 8 as undersecretary of natural resources and the environment in the Department of Agriculture. Sherman said now is “a good time to transition to new leadership” in the spot, which includes direct supervision of the Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
He joins fellow Coloradan Ken Salazar, who served four years as secretary of the interior, in leaving the administration in President Barack Obama’s second term.
In his letter of resignation, Sherman listed a new forest planning rule as a major accomplishment, as well as protecting communities from the ravages of wildfires. Sherman brought “Colorado common sense to the Obama administration and its management of our national forests and public lands, which create jobs and are a big part of our high quality of life,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. Udall lauded in particular Sherman’s work on the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, which allows ski areas to increase tourism and job creation throughout the year.
During Sherman’s tenure, the Forest Service also became embroiled in a court fight with the National Ski Area Association over the agency’s demand that ski areas turn over new water rights in order to obtain permits to operate in national forests. A federal judge ruled that the Forest Service had failed to involve the public in drafting the directive and ordered the agency to reconsider the directive and seek public comment. The Forest Service has yet to announce plans for public meetings to discuss the directive.
From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):
“As you know, I am a Westerner at heart and, after four years, I am feeling a strong ‘tug’ from that direction, particularly from my family in Colorado and California,” he wrote. “Although this has been a difficult decision for me, I think it is a good time to make a transition.”[…]
In his letter to Forest Service employees, Sherman outlined his agency’s achievements over the last four years, including forest planning rules, land conservation, public-private partnerships that assisted in forest and watershed restoration projects, expanded recreation opportunities at ski areas and streamlining review and approval processes. “We worked with partners around the country to create new public-private partnerships, fostering an ethic of collaboration,” he wrote. “I marvel that in the face of declining budgets, record fires and temperatures, and challenging forest health conditions, we have achieved so much.”
Sherman’s departure comes as the Forest Service installs sequestration budget cuts and begins harvesting public input on a controversial plan to control water used by ski areas on public land. Sherman said he will remain at the USDA through May 8 to assist in the transition toward a new undersecretary.