From Andy Stahl
Some have suggested that Congress amend NFMA, establish a public land law review commission, or otherwise lessen the binds of environmental law. They say that the Forest Service has been reformed, that logging is no longer a problem, or that other problems (e.g., climate, insects, private land use) not addressed by NFMA are now paramount.
Wall Street bankers made the same plea in 1999 when they persuaded Congress to repeal the Depression-era regulations that separated commercial and investment banking. Lo and behold, it didn’t take long for the banks to remind us that where there’s money to be made, it will be, and damn the consequences.
Money still grows on Forest Service trees, ripe for the agency’s plucking. The well-intentioned laws (Knutson-Vandenberg, Brush Disposal, Salvage Sale Fund) that allow the Forest Service to supplement its appropriated budget with timber sale dollars remain on the books. In 2000, President Clinton’s USDA proposed to eliminate the off-budget timber funds by re-directing all timber sale receipts to the U.S. Treasury. Guess who opposed the move? Mark Rey, who in 2005, thanks to a midnight appropriations bill rider, expanded K-V spending authority to include paying for green timber sale planning and administration.
Randal O’Toole’s diagnosis, if not his therapy, remains as sound today as when he published Reforming the Forest Service in 1988. And the odds of eliminating these perverse legislative incentives remain as unlikely as the reimposition of any limits on bankers’ greed.