Leslie Weldon is the Deputy Chief for National Forest System with the USDA Forest Service. In this role, Leslie is the executive responsible for National policy, oversight and direction for the natural resource programs managing 193 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands. These programs provide vision and transformational initiatives for an agency with multiple missions, including outdoor recreation, watershed and forest health, land management planning, wilderness, fisheries and wildlife habitat, realty, fire management, forest products, grazing, energy and minerals, forest roads, data and information and facilities; so they best demonstrate sustainable multiple-use management, using an ecological approach, to provide benefits to citizens.
From 2009 – 2011, Leslie served as Regional Forester for the Northern Region of the Forest Service. In this position she provided oversight for management of 28 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands as well as State & Private Forestry programs in Northern Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota.
Leslie held the position of External Affairs Officer in the Office of the Chief from June 2007 – October 2009. During this time she was responsible for several national programs including Legislative Affairs, Office of Communication, Press Office, and the National Partnership Office.
From June 2000 through June 2007, Leslie served as Forest Supervisor for the Deschutes National Forest in Bend, Oregon. Leslie led management of natural resources, business operations and customer service for the 1.6 million acre Deschutes National Forest in the rapidly growing community of Bend. The Deschutes National Forest is defined by robust programs including premiere year-round outdoor recreation, watershed and aquatic restoration, forest health restoration and fire management on complex fire-adapted ecosystems and commercial forest products. Programs also include heritage resources, transportation and facilities management, geology and minerals, fish and wildlife, and extensive outreach and partnership programs. Leslie worked closely with people and organizations interested in the stewardship of the forest for various uses including strong interagency programs with the Bureau of Land Management.
Leslie’s 36 year career with the Forest Service began in 1981 as a summer hire monitoring seedlings, fighting forest fires, and surveying spotted owls on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington. During this time she began training in fisheries through the coop-education program. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech (1983), she was hired as a fisheries biologist for three districts on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where she worked restoring habitat for salmon and steelhead.
Between 1987 and 1991, Leslie served as Assistant National Fisheries Program Manager and as a staff biologist for the Northern Region. She was Assistant Ranger and District Ranger on the Stevensville Ranger District, Bitterroot National Forest from 1992 – 1996 where she led extensive local public involvement efforts to implement collaborative, ecosystem-based management of forestlands. From mid-1996 through 1998, Leslie served with the Northeastern Area, State & Private Forestry, as Forest Service Liaison to the U.S. Army Environmental Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. In this role, she pioneered an interagency partnership for technical assistance in natural and cultural resource management on U.S. Army bases and other military installations state-side and overseas. From 1998 through 2000, Leslie served as Executive Policy Assistant to Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck. As executive policy assistant, Leslie assisted in managing operational priorities for the Chief, across programs for National Forest Systems, Legislative Affairs, Research and Development, State & Private Forestry, International Programs, Business Operations, Civil Rights, and Financial Management.
She has participated on numerous national and international technical and policy review activities including Congo Basin, Brazil, Peru, China, Argentina and Germany. Her work has involved identifying shared solutions and working closely with partners from academia, conservation, as well as environmental and community groups, local government, and natural resource related businesses. She is a committed leader to workforce diversity, leadership development, and civil rights.
Leslie is married to Michael Weldon. They have adult twin sons – Joseph and Kevin.