Volume 13, Issue 1 - spring 2020
Message from the Director
Some time ago I was thinking about what to say in this Director’s message—written as a farewell of sorts. After nearly 15 years, I am no longer the director of the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC). It’s been a privilege and an honor to be the inaugural director and serve these many years. A recent change in the Southern Research Station has given me an opportunity as the director of the new Center for Forest Assessment and Synthesis (CFAS). CFAS includes EFETAC in addition to four other research units addressing watershed health, economics, social sciences, and science integration. I think this new alignment will serve EFETAC well as we better integrate our collective research and development efforts.
Given these changes, I had planned to use this message as a pleasant walk through memory lane, recounting the veritable greatest hits of EFFETAC achievements over the last 15 years.
And then the trifecta of public crises hit.
Today I’m at home. I’m teleworking like millions of others because of the persistent COVID-19 pandemic. I’m doing my part to practice social distancing, a new phrase in the cultural vernacular. Like all Americans, I’m concerned for the health of myself, my family, my colleagues, and my fellow citizens. I see the economic distress the pandemic has caused as so many businesses shut down and entire economies have ground nearly to a halt. More recently, I hear the impassioned voices of millions of Americans (and others!) that have taken to the streets and airwaves, calling for a long-overdue end to racial injustice. My heart aches and I long for better times ahead, aware of the long uphill struggle that we all still face.
When viewed in comparison to these major crises, our work at EFETAC may seem small and unimportant. Yet, we carry on. We carry on because our work is important. Our nation’s forests and the benefits they provide are essential to our health and economic well-being. The environmental threats facing our forests are not taking a hiatus just because we are distracted by other priorities. We must remain vigilant and be ready to respond, regardless of the increased complexities of addressing environmental threats during and post pandemic. Our expertise is needed to predict, detect, and assess environmental threats and provide user-friendly information to forest managers so that they can respond. Our skills in risk assessment, remote sensing, decision analysis, and other fields are finding new applications as we think about continuing operations in a novel environment.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done and that we continue to do. We have a diverse, inclusive, and professional group of individuals that are highly dedicated to our agency’s mission. It’s an exceptional and accomplished team, one that I look forward to working with and supporting in my new role moving forward.
It’s also my pleasure to announce that Dr. Kurt Riitters will serve as EFETAC Director. Kurt is a distinguished landscape ecologist with a long history of scientific innovation and collaborative work with the forest health community and other researchers. I can think of no one more capable or deserving of leading this unit and sincerely appreciate him assuming this responsibility. Thank you, Kurt!
Director, Center for Forest Assessment and Synthesis