Texas A&M Forest Service’s Gretchen Riley received the 2020 Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for Public Service in Forestry today.

The Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence is the highest employee award given by Texas A&M AgriLife, and Riley received this award for her diverse and extraordinary contributions to the Texas A&M Forest Service and to the state and people of Texas.

“Gretchen personifies public service and excellence,” said Tom Boggus, State Forester and Director of Texas A&M Forest Service. “She is one of those people we rely upon as our ‘go to’ expert and understands the power of partnerships and relationships as she is known across our agency, our state, and the nation.”

During her 10-year career with Texas A&M Forest Service, Riley has served in multiple roles. She started as a Staff Forester, but quickly became involved in projects throughout the agency. A certified arborist and forester, Riley operates as a member of the Urban Forest Strike Team. She also ensures that conservation values of working forest easements are maintained and coordinates the state’s Champion Tree Program.

In 2015, Riley co-authored the book Famous Trees of Texas, Centennial Edition, 2015, which tells the stories of 101 trees throughout the state, and in 2019, she was called in to evaluate the Brazos County Courthouse Cedar: a 178-year-old tree that was structurally unstable, and threatening the integrity of the historic courthouse. She even led the development of a recently released smartphone application called My Tree ID, which helps users identify 475 different species of tree.

Riley’s rank and reputation has climbed through the years by consistently performing exemplary work and making key contributions to urban and community forestry programs throughout the state.

“Gretchen’s technical forestry skills are tremendous, both in the field and office,” said Hughes Simpson, the Department Head of Forest Systems for Texas A&M Forest Service. “She has truly left her mark on this agency and the profession in general.”

Today, Riley coordinates the Forest Legacy Program and serves as the Partnership Coordinator for the Urban and Community Forestry Program for the Texas A&M Forest Service. In this role, she provides leadership to numerous, critical agency initiatives ranging from land conservation (Forest Legacy) to public health (Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives) to community tree assessments (Urban FIA, Urban Tree Canopy).

Riley has also made significant connections within AgriLife, Texas A&M University System, and private foundations to advance the Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives public health initiative. Earlier this year, she received a grant from the USDA Forest Service to expand the Texas A&M Forest Service urban tree improvement program, an initiative to develop quality tree seedlings that can thrive in harsh urban environments.

“Partnership development is critical to the success of any agency,” said Simpson. “Gretchen excels in this role, establishing effective relationships with federal, state, corporate, non-profit and local partners.”

As an established and critical leader at Texas A&M Forest Service, Riley will continue to foster those working relationships to help cultivate and expand natural resources, and the forestry profession, throughout the state of Texas.

“I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without others,” said Riley. “Just as a forest managed for multiple use tends to be more sustainable than one managed for a single purpose, so does my work intersect with the work of others; we move forward faster, easier, better when we do so together.”

Looking toward the future, Riley says she is excited to continue her work on the “Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives” initiative and the multi-state Urban Tree Improvement Project: both of which are collaborative efforts leveraging long-term expertise and involving stakeholders across the country. 

Working for TFS never has a dull moment,” said Riley. “It is a dynamic, changing world and we are right there, building local capacity and providing assistance, regardless.  Technology capabilities are constantly evolving and I’m looking forward to adapting new technology to new initiatives and projects in order to better meet the needs of Texans.”

Meritorious work is awarded through 18 categories by the Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence (VCAIE) Program, which recognizes outstanding achievements by personnel of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M Forest Service, and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.

For more about the Vice Chancellor’s Awards, visit the full press release at: http://bit.ly/3bCqlke