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Dave Cleaves is only the second climate change adviser for the century-old agency, and the first to take the reins during the Obama administration

By Dina Fine Maron and Climatewire

Dave Cleaves wasn’t raised to fight for the trees.The 62-year-old economist grew up in the cornfields of northwestern Ohio at a time when the state’s forests were routinely felled to make way for farmland. But for Cleaves, an outdoor enthusiast, identifying trees always held more appeal than milking cows.

Now Cleaves is charged with charting the course for the Forest Service’s response to climate change, helping America’s forests and grasslands cope with ongoing threats exacerbated by global warming wildfires, diseases and pests. In five months on the job, he has laid out the broad strokes for the agency’s next phase in its climate change response.