Employees on the Special Uses Modernization Team photographed with Chief Vicki Christiansen (front center left), Assistant Chief Lenise Lago (front center right) and leadership from the Forest Service National Headquarters. 
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognized its talented employees in a ceremony on Dec. 5 at the USDA Jefferson Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Idyllwild resident Heidi Hoggan was one of the honored recipients of the Chief’s Honor Award. 

Hoggan serves the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), an agency under the USDA, working in the Washington D.C. office, business operations, enterprise program, realty specialist, as a former employee of the San Bernardino National Forest and the San Jacinto Ranger District.

From 2016 through 2019, Hoggan was the Angeles National Forest Communications Lease Renewal Strike Team leader, which was part of the Special Uses Modernization team that focused on updating how the USFS interacts with its more than 77,000 annual permit customers.

The Chief’s Honor Award is the highest award given by the agency and publicly recognizes employees who find innovative ways to embrace the mission and contribute to USFS’s strategic goals, which according to their website, are to sustain the nation’s forests and grasslands, deliver benefits to the public, apply knowledge globally and excel as a high-performing agency.

From left, Elrand Denson, Washington office Special Uses Program Manager poses with Heidi Hoggan after receiving her award.   Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

“I felt so honored to be able to go there,” said Hoggan. “I felt so excited to get that recognition. I’ve been with the forest service for 15 years and that particular project I worked on for almost three years,” Hoggan said.

“Our team cut the agency backlog in half, increased annual permit revenue by $15 million and provided direct online access to popular permit types,” explained Hoggan. “This was a several year project that involved one of the largest and most complex communications site programs in the nation. As a highly urbanized national forest, the Angeles program returns over $1 million annually to the U.S. Treasury and allows for modern communications critical to the quality of life of over 15 million residents of Los Angeles County and surrounding regions.”

According to the project nomination form, the team was awarded the Chief’s Honor Award for the substantial reduction in the backlog of expired Special Use authorizations, updating communications site management plans for 28 designated sites, issuing 85 30-year leases for critical communications infrastructure and full compliance with terms and conditions through fair, consistent, and meaningful dialog and engagement with the lessees.

“I like working Special Uses because your helping people,” said Hoggan. “All of these things happen on national forest land that many people don’t realize, like power lines and communications, for example. Southern California Edison has permits all over the nation and all of the communication companies like cellphone and internet providers, AM/FM radio, television services and radios for emergency agencies. These are all things that everyone benefits from and if they aren’t managed then you have resource damage or people that aren’t paying rent which goes to the National Treasury and back to our forests.” Hoggan said.

Hoggan is one of 15 in the nation who is considered an expert in communication sites. She is called on for special assignments all over the country, and in places like Puerto Rico, to help in various ways with maintaining communication sites.

“My background is in wildlife biology, but taking a chance on Special Uses was the best thing I ever did,” admitted Hoggan. “I want to be helpful, useful and feel like I can do the most good. Special Uses allows that.”

The lands and resources of the Angeles National Forest, the providers and users of the various communications systems and taxpayers are served well by the accomplishments of Hoggan and her team. Their resilience, adaptability and dedication earned them the recognition they deserved.