Center for American Progress: “America’s Forgotten Forests”

New report from the Center for American Progress (CAP): “America’s Forgotten Forests: A Vision for Revitalizing Rural Economies Through Restoration”

Greenwire used this headline: “Think tank urges Trump to transfer agency to Interior” but the policy paper is much more comprehensive. Greenwire says the report lays out policy recommendations that “include responsible timber harvest but also put the focus on forest restoration as a pathway to all kinds of additional positive outcomes, many of which would create American jobs.”

Some folks will find much in the paper to disagree with, as I do. For example, the authors have far too much faith in recreation as a forest resource/value that can adequately sustain rural communities. However, they do highlight the potential of cross-laminated timbers: “Fostering growth in this new market would put more people to work in the timber industry and return forests to health.”

Some folks will discount the paper because of its source — the CAP is widely seen as progressive/liberal. IMHO, the paper is well worth thought and discussion.

7 Comments

  1. Steve, thanks for finding and posting this.. I was first struck by this statement:
    “At the present moment, however, U.S. forest policy remains fixated on delivering a single utilitarian output above all others: timber. The U.S. Forest Service has prioritized timber in recent decades for several reasons, including big timber’s large influence in Congress and the Forest Service’s management by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, which exists to support farmers—a culture of industry servitude that naturally seeps into the management of national forests. This narrow focus is holding the U.S. economy back.”

    That’s certainly not my lived experience, having worked in the Forest Service during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. As we’ve discussed before here, really “timber industry”? Who is left? Or how about “timber workers and consumers of wood products?”

    It’s also a bit strange to argue that Agriculture works to support farmers (“industry servitude”- what industry??? helping farmers and ranchers is helping “industry”???) . I still don’t understand why some industries are “good”- and deserve to influence public policy- say craft beers, marijuana, outdoor recreation, and other ones are bad, say oil and gas, timber, farming and ranching, and mining, water deliverers. The latter tend to produce the necessities of life today, and the former what we used to think of as luxuries. I find this “industry divide” somewhat puzzling- especially since good industries like craft beer and marijuana use water and energy from.. you guessed it…the bad industries. And additionally, craft beer uses food products from agriculture..

    • I reckon “big timber’s large influence in Congress” is far smaller than the overall impact of “big green” influencers.

      Also, endnote #6 is “U.S. Forest Service, “What We Believe,” available at https://www.fs.fed.us/about-agency/what-we-believe.” This USFS mission statement does not include the word timber. It starts out by saying that “The phrase, ‘Caring for the Land and Serving People,’ captures the Forest Service mission. As set forth in law, the mission is to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple-use management concept to meet the diverse needs of people….”

      Note that the author, Adam Fetcher “is a writer and consultant based in Minneapolis. He serves as communications adviser and speechwriter for Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, and was formerly Patagonia’s director of global public relations and communications. Fetcher was press secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, in addition to several other government and Obama campaign roles. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Boundary Waters Trust and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness.”

      • FYI I have sat at the table many times where we were required to listen to voices of environmental groups, never timber (in my experience). Once the undersecretary at the time told us we needed to take the opinion of the VP more seriously, but that was about coal.

  2. Steve and I worked on the same Eldorado National Forest Ranger District, although in different years. The RD’s ASQ changed from 65 million board feet, in the late 80’s, to 45 million ( for “New Perspectives” ), to 15 million, for the spotted owls, to 2.2 million, including 20″ diameter limits, at the end of the Clinton Administration. Currently, their ASQ is at 5.5 million ( with 30″ diameter limits and no clearcutting), last I heard, for a rather large Ranger District, by California standards.

  3. As for USDA, they’ve focused on large agribusiness for a long time now. The small family farm is going extinct. I think the real issue about “industry” (whether farming, logging, ranching, etc) is related to their tendency for exploitation at the expense of sound environmental policies like sustainability. Does timber industry do a good job of sustaining all forest resources and env services or merely wood? My lived experience in the FS (1965-2002) reveals the FS as changing, but with still a long way to go. Have to say that one measure of “success” is broad consensus (including Congress and both ends of political spectrum) as to what constitutes “good forestry” on public lands. With strong voices out there (Western states, Republican platform) to divest public lands, and that see federal agencies as an “occupying force”, I don’t think we’re there yet. Just sayin’…

  4. OK, Jim, I’ll bite… what do we know about the sustainability of the marijuana industry? Or the beer industry? I live in the middle of ranching country (private lands) how would anyone know if they are adequately “sustainable” or not? Wouldn’t you have to be familiar with their specific practices to know?

    I think you are making a blanket statement about USDA- I worked for CSREES for a couple of years and the research and extension there (at the time) was about what people needed. FSA for industry? Local farmers use crop insurance for sure..

    Like everything, I think it’s more complicated. PS I think the divestment is a red herring for all kinds of practical reasons. Both parties are responsible for the current situation the D’s for believing that everything is fine now, and if you want fuels treatments you are a lackey of the timber industry, and the R’s for dreaming up the impossible. Stuck, we are all stuck, because they can’t have an honest convo across the political divide.

  5. Don’t want to venture off into ag on this forum (though I grew up in Iowa), so let’s talk forestry. I would describe the OR industry practices as generally vacuous — monoculture plantations following cc’ing, with extensive use of herbicides, rotations of 35 years. This is not characteristic of ALL industry, but I dare say virtuous ecological models are rare on pvt lands. I recognize this is hyperbole, but for the sake of argument I’d hate to see NFs go that route. I take your point about Rs and Ds — I really don’t think Rs care about the environment and Ds should care more about what makes communities and economies tick.

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