NFMA, the Timber Wars Filter and the 21st Century

I agree with Jack Ward Thomas when he talked about “walking around the field of battle bayoneting the wounded” in, I think,  this still relevant testimony from 2000. There are also some other relevant observations from this testimony for this planning rule discussion.

21st century planning is obviously tied to NFMA, but a challenge is to divorce ourselves from the timber -o-centric nature of the statute and the “timber wars filter” that affects the way we see and frame issues . Sometimes I wonder if those of us who remember that time have some kind of filter that we can’t see beyond- and I am speaking of both those outside and inside the agency.

My wake-up call to see my own filter was moving to the Rocky Mountain Region where day to day questions include skiing, oil and gas, travel management, grazing, fuels treatments- and the supply of wood far exceeds the demand. We have little-talked about (nationally) issues of urban forests everywhere dumping, shooting ranges, crime; we also have encroachment, trespass, the need to keep our water rights and deal with water developers, we have the important but often overlooked national grasslands with prairie dogs and energy development issues.

It is only by spending time outside the larger forest policy discussion that I came to see how the old timber filter can get in the way of seeing the future clearly, including the future of the timber industry.

One idea would be to take the Southern Cal forest plans (which are relatively timber free), and see what issues they have and how they were framed, both by the forests and the plantiffs in the lawsuit.

Another idea would be to take a group of 20-35 year olds, a combination of externals and internals  – some of our most creative  thinkers and soome  experienced with current procedures, and ask them to design a  planning rule alternative. After all, they will probably be implementing, appealing and litigating the plans while we are sitting on porches sipping iced beverages and playing with grandkids.

Finally, I think that if there were a broadly supported, surgical amendment to NFMA to get rid of requirement that were clearly outdated (or relieve low-timber production forests from dealing with them) it is within the realm of possibility to pursue it.

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