Two letters from the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Straka has a good point about state trust lands.
The Forest, the Trees, Conflicting Goals and Poor Policy
Traditional forestry would produce healthy, wildfire-resistant, sustainable forests, and a profit if that was in the objectives.
Jan. 13, 2014 3:42 p.m. ET
Robert H. Nelson did a great job of highlighting U.S. Forest Service management problems (“Taking an Ax to Traditional Forest Management,” op-ed Jan. 2). However, forest management on national forests is anything but traditional. Traditional forestry would produce healthy, wildfire-resistant, sustainable forests, and a profit if that was in the objectives. The Forest Service used to produce a profit and even turned 25% of it over to local counties to cover expenses of rural roads and schools. Since 2000, under the Secure Rural Schools Act, Congress has directly made these payments. Last year that was nearly $330 million. What was once a use-based, profitable forest is now a “welfare case.”
The idea of charter forests is excellent. A better idea might be to turn the forests over to state management using Mr. Nelson’s idea of retained federal ownership and oversight. Many Western states already manage state forests and easily generate funds for schools and other activities, while still actively managing for social and environmental goals. From the very beginning of the forest reserves, Western concern has been these huge assets wouldn’t be developed to their potential. What is needed now is traditional forest management, and the states are best positioned to provide that.
Prof. Thomas J. Straka
Wild lands (sometimes called forest land) are complex ecosystems with many objectives. The owners (the public) are convinced that their “objective” is the only one that is right, whether it be hikers, hunters or bird watchers. Professional managers with extensive natural-resource training are not allowed to make decisions that conflict with a special-interest group’s objectives or opinions. I have negotiated at the local level and reached agreement with various environmental groups on issues only to have the agreed decision overturned by their regional or national organization because it wouldn’t fit with their regional or national objectives. In addition, often a user’s complaint to a politician results in interference in making a sound decision which is best for all the competing resources. That is one of the main reasons for the low morale in the Forest Service.
The only solution is to have special-interest groups make their concerns and objectives known to the professional resource managers, step back, and let them do their jobs just as the professional teachers are allowed to do in charter schools. That is what they are being paid to do.