A while back, I obtained a copy of Wilkinson and Anderson’s book ” Land and Resource Planning in the National Forests” (1987) from the library. It had to go back today, which caused me to write about stuckness, rather than any conclusions.
So I’ll describe where I keep circling, and a possible exit off the rotary.
The rotary. In this post, Andy quoted Judge Dwyer:
Here’s what Judge Dwyer had to say on the subject:
When the [NFMA’s diversity] section is read in light of the historical context and overall purposes of the NFMA, as well as the legislative history of the section, it is evident that section 6(g)(3)(B) requires Forest Service planners to treat the wildlife resource as a controlling, co-equal factor in forest management and, in particular, as a substantive limitation on timber production.
The Ninth Circuit sustained Judge Dwyer on appeal.
Reading and rereading that part of the Wilkinson and Anderson book, I couldn’t get there from here. John tells me Judge Dwyer actually quoted the book. However, I don’t necessarily see that, with all due respect to both Judge Dwyer and the Ninth Circuit.
I was stuck. Finally I saw a footnote on page 170- a quote from Chief Max Peterson.
“If one thought emerges from reading this diversity paragraph over and over again, is that it is not very specific , and therefore leaves much room for judgment. The law does not provide detailed direction ; certainly it contains no definition of diversity, nor an indication of how much diversity is required,, it does not say that whatever diversity is there now must be kept . With proper justification, and to meet multiple use objectives, diversity could be altered or even reduced.”
That is exactly the conclusion I came to. It is interesting that these points of view could be so different- and one became enshrined in law and not the other.
Here’s another quote from the book from page 173:
To summarize, section 6(g)(3)(B) has three complementary meanings in the context of timber planning. First it is a general mandate to bring timber production into balance with wildlife and ecological values. Second it limits the use of forest conversion to cases where the conversion can be justified by its benefit to non-timber resources. Third, it prohibits monoculture. These three elements, when taken together, require the Forest Service to look at the forest as an ecological whole an to ensure that, over time, the forest is not converted to a tree farm.”
This suggests some kind of balance between timber production and other values. Is this different from “to treat the wildlife resource as a controlling, co-equal factor in forest management and, in particular, as a substantive limitation on timber production?” It seems to me that balance and “controlling co-equal” are a bit different. Anyway, my meditation on these concepts and rereading this section reminded me of how much the world was different then; of how, as Andy says, it was really all about timber. It is so unlike the world of today. I wonder if NFMA itself has value anymore or it was ultimately a creature of its time. Should it be put gently to rest?
A possible exit from the rotary.. what can we do pragmatically?
Like Max (as I recall, the first Chief who was an engineer), I am ultimately pragmatic. People, and more importantly regulatory agencies, seem to like standards. If the 2005 Rule experience proved anything, it proved that. One of my colleagues told me that in his view the utility of forest plan standards is that interdisciplinary teams don’t have to re-open all the same issues for every project. This does seems useful; but I have to wonder if this couldn’t be more flexible..say a GIS layer of what standards apply and they are developed across forests- so that the old plans don’t have old-fangled standards and newer ones newer-fangled standards, and none of them kept up-to-date with current information. We have a Watershed Conservation Practice Handbook that attempts to deal with that, but some people miss the legal NFMA hook.