Ranking Member Stabenow Statement on USDA Inspector General Report on Forest Service Misconduct
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry issued the following statement in response to a new interim report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Inspector General, which includes recommendations to improve the process for investigating sexual harassment and misconduct complaints within the U.S. Forest Service. This report was released a day after the resignation of the U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke.
“I have long been concerned about the complaints of widespread sexual harassment and misconduct at the U.S. Forest Service. Sexual harassment is unacceptable. While I am pleased that the agency has accepted the recommendations of this report, it is clear there is still more work that needs to be done. I will continue to press the Forest Service to improve its procedures to thoroughly investigate incidents, prevent retaliation, and hold perpetrators accountable.
“The next Chief must work tirelessly to both steward our National Forests and aggressively address the widespread complaints of sexual misconduct at the agency.”
In 2016, Stabenow joined a bipartisan group of members of Congress to request an audit into the Forest Service’s procedures for handling sexual harassment and misconduct issues. While the Forest Service has taken steps to improve its review process, the agency has continued to rely on internal investigators. The new interim report recommends that external investigators should conduct all reviews of Forest Service sexual harassment and misconduct complaints.