Forests for whom and for what?

With apologies to Marion Clawson (the year before NFMA), but we’re still asking that question.

Secure Rural Schools meets forest planning on the Mark Twain.  This is a real example of the reasons why Congress has tried to break the connection between commercial use of national forests and revenues to local governments.

The commission would like to see the management plan changed to allow an increased timber harvest. This would bring in more money for the county’s schools and Road and Bridge Fund. 

“The preservationist mindset at the national forest is hurting our communities,” says Skiles. “We need to ask who the forests belong to, and ensure that they are a multiuse asset for our country.”

We welcome the public’s input,” says Salem Forest Service District Ranger Thom Haines. “We are not revising our management plan yet, but it will be coming up. When we do, we will engage with the public and our leaders to determine the best plan forward.”

A reform of the forest management plan will no doubt stir up another local debate, and concern is already growing over the viability of industrializing the national forest.

“We have to deal with the market,” says Haines. “It’s not as simple as cutting more trees. The counties do get a 25 percent cut of timber sales, but there is a lot of wood harvested now which doesn’t sell. The counties will only get that money if the wood is sold, and if it doesn’t sell quickly, that wood will rot and then it will not be worth anything.”

Among the other issues that will have to be confronted with an increase in logging are; cheaper foreign wood entering the US market, fluctuating wood prices, and the lower quality of timber coming from the Ozarks in comparison to areas with richer soil, better climates and older growth forests.

“We are not a preservationist organization,” says Haines. “The forest service exists to benefit local communities in many ways, including economically. But as Gifford Pinchot once said, we are here to do the greatest good, for the greatest number of people, for the greatest amount of time. That means conservation. What we have to ask ourselves is what conservation means for us today, and for future generations.”

Maybe the Forest Service was too subtle with its suggestion that “the greatest number” part puts the local county’s financial needs in the proper perspective.  At least they are now asking Clawson’s question through the planning process he probably contributed to creating.

11 Comments

  1. Long term sustained yield: multiple use management; sustainability: buzz words? Many people have criticized usfs as being slow to respond to public demands and changing values. In a perverse sort of way maybe that is a good thing. Pressures for short term economic stimulus at expense of sustainability seem to be ramping up
    Blame the enviroros , blame the regulations; but look at the appropriation numbers for what is limiting current outputs on national forest lands.

  2. “Short term economic stimulus at the expense of sustainability” Seems to me that sustainability is not an issue when the Forest Service is cutting 7% of the annual growth while six times that volume dies.

    • You make a good point. The harvest levels on almost every national forest are well below long-term sustained yield or environmentally sustainable levels.

      The principal reasons most forests are not anywhere near meeting their forest plan timber and wildlife habitat goals, in my opinion, lie in the fact that congress funds targets at levels well below what the plans call for. Finding cheaper ways to cut by reducing environmental constraints may buy you something in the short run . However if in the process you alienate enough constituents you’ll never get the broad bipartisan support that is needed to restore adequate funding from congress to get the natural resource management work done.
      In the interim let’s try to produce realistic forest plans with a level of outputs that can actually be achieved within today’s fiscal constraints. We have promised too many things to too many people for too long 🙂

  3. Having been responsible for the preparation of a forest plan in 1990, I am troubled that we seem to have learned little as we start the second round of planning. I am personally aware that many of the first plans were manipulated to provide unrealistic timber harvesting outputs. This revision effort must understand that the process, intentionally, requires the decision maker’s to analyze the relationships between all resources within a forest community, thereby eliminating the opportunity to maximize any individual resource. For every action there is a re-action. The process is designed to identify the positive and negative trade-offs, which then requires a determination as to what we can accept and what we can not accept. Next we must begin the dialog by determining our long range goals and objectives. Our forests are vital in sustaining our human environment, but must be managed with the help of professional scientists. Part of defining our future desires involves understanding the importance of forests and the growing demands we will place on them. We have lost slightly more the 50% of the worlds forest cover and the world population now exceeds 7 billion and is growing at the rate of 78 million every year. Proper management is critical, but we must change the focus from managing the resources from the forests to managing healthy, vigorous forest communities! The products a forests produces become the by-products of proper management not the goal of management!! LETS NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES TWICE!

    • Sadly, the Forest Service continues to make the same mistakes, year after year. It’s not a problem, to some bosses, because they simply point to outside influences, while throwing up their hands in defeat. Clearly, the Forest Service employee base is too small and too old to get the needed amount of acres “managed”. Of course, no one in the Forest Service cares about these facts, riding it out til that magic retirement age arrives, with their “high threes” in their pockets.

      When the Forest Service talks about jobs, they don’t mean Forest Service jobs.

  4. I believe that while Pinchot believed in use he also recognized limits and in no way qualified greatest good for greatest numbers as carte Blanche for forest industrialization or local rule. These reserves were to be used conservatively so that greatest good could accrue, much like a savings account. Forest Service can’t complete with Weyerhaeuser or Georgia Pacific so let’s have the Industry recuse themselves from federal land management comparison. FS value added is non-TMDL listed streams, plant diversity, public recreational use, Special Use products and supports a tremendous range of ecological, fire and climate research. Oregon Forest Plan maintains streams at predetermined conditions (fish-bearing or non-fishbearing). Let’s not forget the last part of Pinchot’s words “for the longest time”. Or the first part: Conservation is the foresighted utilization, preservation And/or renewal of forest, waters, lands and minerals (for the greatest…).

  5. Everyone seems to think local rule means, “log it all”. If there ever was local rule,(which there has never been) we might be surprised at how well respected these forests are by the locals. I know one thing for sure, they wouldn’t let them burn up if it could be avoided.

  6. The implication I got from the original article was that ‘local rule’ would mean ‘log enough to balance our budget.’ I suppose that’s an alternative that could be considered in forest planning. It would be interesting to see what it would look like. (Of course that budget would have to go up to provide the services needed for the new employees moving to the area, so the discussion could become one about how big a community wants to be and how big of a budget would be needed, and the amount of logging needed to support that.)

      • Well, no, they’re neither. Raw logs from old-growth clearcuts on NFS land are sold to Asian countries, specifically from sales on the Tongass National Forest. The propriety and sustainability of this practice into the future is specifically the challenge that forest managers are grappling with right now. The forest is caught in a multi-way tug-of-war involving widespread public opposition to the practice, a forest products industry that many view as resistant to change, secretarial mandates to move the timber management program to a young-growth-centric and the ecological challenge of producing sustainable harvests from a slow-growing forest whose oldest second-growth stands have a CMAI that is, at best, decades away.

        • Alaska is a totally different thing, as you point out. I do think the Forest Service would rather feed local mills, sustainably, than jump through the hoops of a Congress from long ago. My point is that many so-called “progressive” people make those ridiculous claims about Forests in the lower 48. Just go to the comments sections of papers like the LA Times and other liberal mouthpieces. AND, so many enviros are completely fine with their “peers” pushing those false beliefs. (Yes, I do know that there are a few waivers, like on the Allegheny NF, and the LA Basin Forests (where there are no lumber mills).

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