Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received a U.S. Forest Service badge and jacket during a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., naming him an Honorary Forest Ranger for his work on climate change issues.
“I know you understand what we need to do as a nation to reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere — after all, you have helped lead the way,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said to Schwarzenegger during the ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We look forward to having your help in educating communities on the devastating impacts of climate change on our forests and grasslands.”
Schwarzenegger said the honor “truly touches my heart” and expressed high praise for the agency and highlighted his respect for the thousands of Forest Service firefighters, especially as climate change effects have contributed to hotter, longer fire seasons.
“I have always known the kind of great work the U.S. Forest Service is doing. But when I became governor of California, (I saw) firsthand the kind of devastating fires we have in California,” he said. “I also have seen what climate change has done. We used to have a fire season, which was in the summer and the fall. Eventually this (included) spring and now there is fire all year long.”
He said that Forest Service firefighters are “without a doubt the best firefighters in the world.”
“And it was like a sport team,” he said. “When a mistake was made there was never any finger pointing. You just got together and figured out how to work even better together. And because of that they were better able to do their jobs... and this is why I became such a fan.”
Since his birth in Austria, Schwarzenegger has transformed himself into a world-class body builder, an American citizen (1968), an actor and public servant. He also serves as chairman of the After School All-Stars, a nationwide after-school program, and has served as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
What some people may not realize is that he has an established record of working to ensure the viability of natural resources worldwide.
As governor, he signed into law landmark legislation, the Global Warming Solutions Act, putting California at the forefront in the fight against climate change. He set the state on a course of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. California is well on its way to meetings its targets through a ground-breaking mix of measures, including a low carbon fuel standard, a renewable energy portfolio, and a cap-and-trade program. Schwarzenegger as governor also approved tough new vehicle fuel economy standards that have since been adopted at the national level.
Since leaving office in 2011, Schwarzenegger has continued to champion the need to address climate change. He cofounded the R20 — the Regions of Climate Action. The R20 is a global nonprofit dedicated to problem solving by sub national governments, like the states and counties here in the United States. The R20 helps governments develop projects to lower carbon emissions and to make forests and other ecosystems more resilient—more able to recover from the impacts of climate change.
He most recently met with the Prime Minister of Algeria to sign a 3-year agreement to establish an R20 office that will advise Algerian states on solar energy projects, waste reduction and waste energy projects. In August 2012, the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy was launched by the University of Southern California. An upcoming Showtime documentary on climate change directed by James Cameron will feature Schwarzenegger in a segment on forests.
“For all of these reasons, we’ve chosen the ‘Austrian Oak’ as an honorary forest ranger with the Forest Service,” Tidwell said. “Not to diminish bodybuilding, acting, or governing, but we’re pretty sure that this will be the toughest post you will ever love.”
Schwarzenegger joins actress Betty White and keyboardist Chuck Leavell as honorary forest rangers. White has a long-standing dedication to protecting wilderness and wildlife. She said that in her heart, “I’ve been a forest ranger all of my life.” Leavell, keyboard player for the Rolling Stones, lives sustainability every day as a tree farm owner in Georgia.