U.S. Forest Service gets first female chief, trees cower

File this under The More Things Change: On Friday, the 101-year-old U.S. Forest Service named its first-ever female chief. Huzzah! Alas, Gail Kimbell is a pro-industry engineer who helped create President Bush’s controversial “Healthy Forests” plan and whose appointment has put conservationists on alert. “She is a strong proponent of turning the clock back … to the good old days where exploiting and extracting natural resources is the raison d’etre,” said Andy Stahl, who heads Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. Fellow greens echoed his concerns, but supporters praised Kimbell’s “wealth of knowledge” and willingness to hear all sides. The New England native, now a USFS regional forester in northern Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota, said she was “honored, humbled, excited, and not just a little bit frightened to take the helm” — a position that puts her in charge of 155 national forests, 30,000 employees, and a nearly $5 billion budget. Hmm, she’ll have to work on that roar.