Click on the image of the envelope above that arrived recently in FSEEE’s mailbox and take a close look. Any idea what it might be? A credit card solicitation, perhaps? Some other type of junk mail?
Nope. The envelope contained an official letter soliciting our views regarding the Kisatchie National Forest’s plans for prescribed burning. We get notices like this all the time; one of our jobs at FSEEE is to keep an eye on what the Forest Service is up to across the national forest system.
Our concern is this: How would a member of the general public who is interested in a project on national forest lands have any idea what’s inside? There is no clue that the letter is from the Forest Service. Not knowing what “Solv” is, it seems likely that many would toss the letter into the round file, unopened. Solv, it turns out, is a consulting company based in McLean, Virginia, that counts among its clients a number of government agencies.
The Forest Service, of course, has long contracted out tasks it is required to do. Think national forest campgrounds, for example—the fireside chat by a friendly ranger is a thing of the past. For-profit companies run most Forest Service campgrounds these days.
A key part of the Forest Service’s mission is to keep the public informed about how it manages our public lands—it is, in fact, legally bound to issue notices about its projects to members of the public who ask for the information. It would help if the agency put its notices in envelopes that say “Forest Service.”