Fitting Protections to Program Size- A Timber Volume Retrospective

Here’s a link to FS volume sold from 1905 to 2008. The longer term graph (page 2 of the previous link) is more illustrative than the one above.

In my view, the historical table and graph definitely raise the question about whether the analytical and monitoring needs for protection of the environment and species for an 10-12 BBF program should be scaled back for a 2 BBF program. If we stopped “bayoneting the wounded” (in Jack Ward Thomas’ terms) what funding could that potentially free up to pursue other environmental goals?

Here’s a quote from Charles Wilkinson of the University of Colorado Law School (member of 1999 Committee of Scientists) in a July 23rd High Country News article on Vermillion Basin oil and gas leasing that acknowledges that conditions have changed since the old timber days…

Over the last year and a half, the Obama administration has made a variety of commitments to protect sensitive landscapes, cut greenhouse gas emissions and develop renewable energy sources. With that, Wilkinson can imagine a “more sensible onshore policy emerging” from the administration, but he adds, “I don’t know if they’ve reached their moment of decision yet.” He equates the issue to the problems the Forest Service faced over four decades, trying to improve forest management while keeping the timber cut high. It wasn’t until timber harvesting came down that environmental conditions on the ground genuinely improved. “We’ve got to bring the barrels down, too,” Wilkinson says.

2 Comments

  1. Sharon, I’d put forth that “The analytical and monitoring needs for protection of the environment and species” for the 10 BBF plus federal timber sale program, especially from the early 1960s to the late 1970s, was wholly and completely inadequate…as evident by the significant decline in old-growth, native wildlife populations, water quality and the proliferation of hundreds of thousands miles of roads, massive clearcuts and weed infestations that really seem to define that period of our nation’s management of our public national forests. Thanks.

  2. But that was then and this is now… I am simply asking the question “given today’s actions, are we doing the “right level” of analysis or would funds bee better spent, say, putting roads to bed or other activities?

    If a 300 acre fuels treatment gets by in Alabama with one level, California with another level, and Montana with another level of analysis (an interesting question), do we know that that is guided by real impact differences? Perceptions of legal risk? Force of local habit?

    It appears to me that the FS and appellants are coevolving as we speak. My question is “is that coevolutionary process yielding the best investment outcomes for the taxpayer?”
    At the end of the day, those are the folks for whom we manage the land and who are paying the bill.

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