Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole announced that the department’s new Chief State Forester will be Heather Berklund, effective October 12. Her office will continue to be in Rhinelander and her contact information will remain the same (phone: 608-598-9068; email: Heather.Berklund@Wisconsin.gov).
Heather brings years of on-the-ground Wisconsin forest management and fire control experience to her new position. She began her forestry career with the Wisconsin DNR in 2000, serving as a field forester in Merrill, Crandon and Mercer for more than a decade before becoming the Ashland-Iron team leader and then the Woodruff area leader in 2016. In her role as the Deputy Division Administrator of Field Operations for the past three years, Heather led the public and private lands programs, Good Neighbor Authority partnership coordination, forest certification, tax law, and fire protection programs.
In addition to her field experience and leadership skills, Heather brings strong communication, collaboration and partnership building skills to her new position along with a broad knowledge of Wisconsin forestry programs and policies. She has worked on many diverse projects including the division’s strategic direction and alignment processes, incident management teams, climate adaptation project, Managed Forest Law efficiencies, the Wisconsin Forest Practices Study implementation, staff development and training, and collaborating on cross-division teams and projects related to public land management and prescribed burning.
Heather earned a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from UW-Stevens Point and has expanded her education through forestry short-courses in Germany and Mexico. She also participated in the 2019 Women in Government leadership academy. Heather received the Division of Forestry 2014 Supervisor of the Year award.
Heather is familiar with forests throughout the state. While the bulk of her career has been in the Northwoods, where she currently resides, she grew up in the Boscobel and Reedsburg areas, exploring the hills and river bottoms in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin. She still enjoys spending time hunting and picking morel mushrooms there on her parents’ 120 acres.
When she’s not traveling across the state (before COVID-19, of course) to meet with partners and staff, you can find her engaged and volunteering in her children’s (ages 11 and 14) school and extracurricular activities. She and her husband Bryce also enjoy biking, cross country skiing, and numerous other outdoor activities that involve snow or water as well as gardening, making maple syrup, and hanging out by Lake Superior.
Heather said she is honored to have been selected to lead the Division of Forestry and is committed to continuing to build relationships and maintaining open communication as we collaborate on the sustainable management of Wisconsin’s forests.
“I look forward to leading the Division of Forestry on a successful path as we adapt to changes in the climate and cultural needs,” Heather said. “The state forestry program has a long history of innovative, well-respected state foresters. I hope to continue this legacy moving forward by showcasing the value that forestry brings to both our state and nation.”