Michael Dombeck

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Michael Dombeck

Michael "Mike" P. Dombeck is an American conservationist, educator, scientist, and outdoorsman. He served as Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management from 1994–1997 and was the 14th Chief of the United States Forest Service from 1997 to 2001. Dombeck also served as UW System Fellow and Professor of Global conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point from 2001 to 2010.

Early life[edit]

Born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and raised in Sawyer County, Dombeck worked as a fishing guide for 11 summers in the Hayward area.[1] He attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and earned a B.S. in biology and general sciences and a M.S. in biology and education degrees. He attended the University of Minnesota, earning a M.S. in Zoology and earned a PhD from Iowa State University in 1984. His research included studies on the movement, behavior, reproduction, and early life ecology of the muskellunge, Wisconsin's state fish. He was Program Chairman of the 1st International Muskellunge Symposium held in 1984.


He married Patricia Rider in 1975 and they have one daughter, Mary.

Early career[edit]

After three years of teaching various sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Dombeck joined the U.S. Forest Service as a fisheries biologist on the Hiawatha National Forest.[2] He held additional Forest Service assignments throughout the Midwest and California, focused on both aquatic research and fisheries management, after which he was promoted to National Fisheries Program Manager for the U.S.F.S. He spent a year in 1989 as a LEGIS Fellow working in the U.S. Senate on agriculture and appropriations issues.

Federal Service[edit]

At the beginning of the George H. W. Bush administration, Dombeck was assigned as Special Assistant to the Director of the Bureau of Land Management and later was named Science Advisor.[3] At the beginning of the Clinton Administration, he was assigned Action Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Lands and Minerals Management. In 1994 he was appointed Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management by Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt. Dombeck held that position until 1997 when Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman named him the 14th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

As USFS Chief, his priorities included watershed health and restoration, sustainable forest ecosystem management, and roadless area protection,[4] which became a very controversial issue.[5] Due to the lack of support of roadless area protection by the George W. Bush administration, Dombeck retired from federal service in 2001.[6] He was granted the highest award in career federal service, the Presidential Rank-Distinguished Executive Award, in 2001.[7]

Post Federal Service[edit]

After retiring from federal service, Dombeck took a position as Professor of Global Conservation at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and was later named UW System Fellow, where he served from 2001 to 2010.[8] He currently serves as Executive Director of the David Smith Post Doctoral Fellowship in conservation biology (since 2005),[9] as a trustee of the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread (since 2002),[10] Trout Unlimited (since 2010), and the Wisconsin chapter of The Nature Conservancy (since 2009).

Dombeck has authored, co-authored, and edited over 200 popular and scholarly publications, including the books Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices and From Conquest to Conservation: Our Public Lands Legacy.[11]


Dombeck has received the following awards:

  • Ansel Adams Award, 2010 [12]
  • Aldo Leopold Restoration Award, 2009
  • Fellow, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, 2008 [13]
  • Honorary Doctorate, Haverford University, 2007
  • Wisconsin Idea Professor, University of Wisconsin System, 2004
  • Sustained Achievement Award, Renewable Natural Resources Foundation, 2003
  • Distinguished Service Award, Society for Conservation Biology, 2003 [14]
  • Audubon Medal, National Audubon Society, 2002
  • Lady Bird Johnson Conservation Award, 2002
  • Edgar Wayburn Award, Sierra Club, 2002
  • Presidential Rank – Distinguished Executive Award, 2001
  • Chief Emeritus, United States Forest Service, 2001
  • Honorary Doctor of Public Service, Northland College, Ashland, WI, 2001
  • Chair's Award, Natural Resources Council of America, 2001
  • Conservation Hero of the Year, The Wilderness Society, 2001
  • Conservationist of the Year, National Wildlife Federation, 2001
  • Man of the Year, American Sportfishing Association, 1999
  • Outdoor Life Magazine Annual Conservation Award, 1999
  • Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Federal Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1999
  • Wetlands Conservationist Award, Ducks Unlimited, 1998
  • Distinguished Alumnus, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point, 1997
  • President's Fishery Conservation Award, American Fisheries Society, 1996


  1. ^ Steen, Harold K. "The Chiefs Remember". Forest History Society, 2004, p.123.
  2. ^ Steen, Harold K. "The Chiefs Remember". Forest History Society, 2004, p.123
  3. ^ Steen, Harold K. "The Chiefs Remember". Forest History Society, 2004, p.124
  4. ^ Dombeck, Michael, Christopher Wood, Jack Williams. "From Conquest to Conservation: Our Public Lands Legacy." Island Press, 2003, p.93-116.
  5. ^ Steen, Harold K. "The Chiefs Remember". Forest History Society, 2004, p.136
  6. ^ Steen, Harold K. "The Chiefs Remember". Forest History Society, 2004, p.144
  7. ^ "Michael Dombeck". http://www.wisconsinacademy.org/contributor/michael-dombeck. 2011.
  8. ^ Steen, Harold K. "The Chiefs Remember". Forest History Society, 2004, p.144.
  9. ^ "Science Advisory Board". http://www.conbio.org/SmithFellows/about/advisory.cfm.
  10. ^ "On Board". http://johnsonfdn.thesupergroup.com/bio/michael-dombeck. 2001.
  11. ^ Michael P. Dombeck - Publications
  12. ^ "Dombeck receives Ansel Adams Award for protecting National Forests." http://wilderness.org/content/dombeck-receives-ansel-adams-award-leadership-protecting-national-forests. 2010
  13. ^ "Michael Dombeck". http://www.wisconsinacademy.org/contributor/michael-dombeck. 2011
  14. ^ "Plenary Speakers".http://www.conbio.org/activities/meetings/2003/website/plenaryspeakers.htm. 2002.

External links[edit]