National Forest Foundation

National Forest Leadership Council

The National Forest Leadership Council is chaired by Beth Pendleton and Bernie Weingardt. Principal Council members are all U.S. Forest Service Regional Foresters and Research Station Directors, the Deputy Chief, National Forest System, and the Deputy Chief, Research and Development.

Bernie Weingardt

Bernie Weingardt retired from the U.S. Forest Service where he served as Pacific Southwest Regional Forester. In this position, he oversaw 18 National Forests in California, which make up 20 million acres covering the North coast, Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges and extending from Big Sur to the Mexican border in the South Coast range. His responsibilities also include assistance to state and private landowners in California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. Mr. Weingardt was formerly Deputy Regional Forester for Resources in the Pacific Southwest Region from January 2001 until his current appointment. Before that, he served five years as Forest Supervisor of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. He began his Forest Service career in 1970 as a seasonal employee on the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado working in recreation and fire.

In 1974 he became a full-time employee, and through a series of natural resource management positions, gained experience and expertise, working his way up to District Ranger on the San Juan National Forest in 1980. A second District Ranger position followed in 1986 on the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest in Colorado. In 1989 he became the Deputy Forest Supervisor on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington until 1993 when he was appointed as Team Leader for the National Recreation Strategy at the Forest Service’s headquarters in Washington DC. Mr. Weingardt holds a degree in Forest Management Science from Colorado State University. His favorite pastimes include carpentry and skiing, hiking and camping in the great outdoors. He is married and the proud father of a happy, energetic 2 year old.

Chris French

He began his USDA career in 1991 on the Coronado National Forest in Arizona as volunteer in recreation. From there, he has worked in planning, NEPA, fire, fuels, wildlife, and recreation/wilderness. Prior to his current role, Chris has served in several key Agency Leadership Positions including, Associate Deputy Chief, Director of Ecosystem Management Coordination, and Acting Director of Forest Management. As Acting Deputy Chief, he is responsible for national policy and oversight of the natural resource programs managing 193 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands.

Chris is a graduate of Arizona State University, an avid outdoor enthusiast, and advocate for our nations public land legacy. He serves as a coach and mentor to several of the agency’s leadership programs and volunteers with several youth conservation programs. He and wife, Jenny live in Northern Virginia and have three children.

Beth Pendleton

Beth Pendleton, retired as Alaska Regional Forester in 2018 following a 33-year career with the U.S. Forest Service and natural resources sector. As Regional Forester, Pendleton oversaw management of more than 22 million acres of National Forest System lands in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska. She worked closely with the region’s diverse stakeholders and communities of interest, especially on issues related to forest restoration and strengthening rural community health. She holds a bachelor’s in wildlife biology from the University of Vermont, a master’s in wildlife and fisheries from South Dakota State University and a master’s in communications from the University of Wyoming. She is a graduate of Harvard’s Senior Executive Fellows Program and American University’s Key Leadership program. She brings natural resources management and communications expertise to the NFF NFLC, as well as, a passion for ensuring the health and vitality of the Nation’s forests and grasslands for present and future generations.