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.