The U.S. Department of Agriculture could soon have another important undersecretary on staff with the announcement over the weekend that President Donald Trump had selected James Hubbard to serve as undersecretary for natural resources and environment.
Under the proposed USDA reorganization plan, the Natural Resources & Environment area comprises only the Forest Service; the Natural Resources Conservation Service is under the Farm Production & Conservation mission area overseen by undersecretary Bill Northey.
Hubbard worked for the Colorado Forest Service for 35 years, serving as the state’s chief forester for the last 20. During his two decades as state forester, he served on multiple National Association of State Foresters (NASF) committees, most notably as chair of the legislative committee.
Hubbard has worked as director of the Office of Wildland Fire Coordination for the U.S. Department of the Interior and deputy chief for state and private forestry at the USDA Forest Service. In 2011, he received the NASF Lifetime Achievement Award. Hubbard received his bachelor's in forest management with honors from the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded the appointment, saying, "I am very excited by the selection of Jim Hubbard for this leadership role at USDA. Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, meaningful reforms and forest management tools that will help us better maintain our national forests. Under Jim Hubbard's leadership, we will put these tools to use, restore our forests to health and get them back to work for the taxpayers. Jim's service with the Forest Service and the Department of Interior makes him exceptionally qualified for this post, and I am eager to have Jim join the team.”
In a 2017 interview, Hubbard detailed the importance of managed fires and cooperation from residents and all the way from the local to the state and federal levels.
Perdue, meanwhile, remains shorthanded at USDA. Of the seven mission areas, no one has been named as an undersecretary for the Food Safety, the Food Nutrition & Consumer Services or the Research, Education & Economics areas. "At the same time, there are several other qualified USDA nominees still awaiting Senate confirmation. I urge the Senate to take up these nominations as quickly as possible,” he said.
Although Hubbard was just nominated, other nominees who have yet to be confirmed by the full Senate include Naomi Earp as assistant secretary for civil rights at USDA, Ken Barbic as assistant secretary for congressional relations and Stephen Vaden as USDA general counsel.