Secretary of Agriculture Remarks at Science Forum

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack started the second day of the science forum this morning to emphasize his attention to the Forest Service planning rulemaking effort.   He said that the Obama administration believes in science.  He noted that forests are a source of enormous economic opportunity.  They are a source of water for economic livelihood and drinking water.  This rule is an important blueprint.   He said that past rulemaking processes haven’t been collaborative, resulting in litigation and misguided policies while forests have suffered.

Vilsack said that people are surprised that he even knows about the Forest Service.  But he called the Department “an every way every day agency” which is not just about farming.  He said many people don’t even know the Forest Service is in Agriculture.  But he said that this is a personal matter – when he first got the job, his son in Colorado (an outdoor enthusiast) told him that he’s got responsibility for the Forest Service.  Vilsack later talked about his interest in forestry after family experiences in Iowa planting pine trees and watching them grow.

He told the audience that they were all important in this process.   Vilsack said that the President is focused on this, as part of his conversation on his Great America Outdoors initiative, and an upcoming White House summit.  The country is faced with obesity issues, and part of the problem is that people don’t spend enough time in the great outdoors.   The planning process is part of this larger dialogue.


5 thoughts on “Secretary of Agriculture Remarks at Science Forum”

  1. John,

    It’s very early in the AM here. You are probably working up blog posts. I should be sleeping. Yesterday I asked on the “formal blog comment aggretator” where the videos were. How much better your coverage would be if instead of a picture of a presentation, you could — YouTube style — link to actual video streams. Have you asked THEM about such?

    I suspect that the FS/USDA have spend a few hundred thous. on their consultants: Booz, Allen, Hamilton and Meridian. If they didn’t think it prudent to allow we in the hinterland access to the “videos”, then I have one more reason to fume about the money wasted spent. Happy meetings, dave

  2. Just so you know, John is in Colorado and I am here. It is a wonder of technology that the best coverage of the meeting (in my opinion) is by someone who isn’t here.

    In general, I would assume that the FS and the consultants would like management flexibility to do great things such as have links to videos, but are restricted by the need for accountability to important national interests like security of our computer systems..:)

    Anyway you have great ideas, Dave. I actually think one of the values of the consultants is that they have easier access to cool current tools than the FS alone would have – in fact, one mentioned that they had tried to get WordPress for the official blog! There is also the system that they are using to get input for the regional meetings, which is great.

    The way I look at it is that you are encouraging the elephant to dance. Thanks to the wonderful people working on the rule, and the consultants, they have made the elephant shuffle. Which is not to say we don’t need to keep at it.

  3. Thanks Sharon,

    OK, I’ll ask you whether or not you’ve asked THEM for the archived “streams,” assuming that they archived them. I would really like to hear any arguments about “security” that pass the “laugh test.”

    “Teaching the elephant to dance” is a great metaphor. One thing I never understood when I first engaged the WO (2006-2007) re: blog/wiki stuff was why they didn’t just jump right in with either Typepad or WordPress, or some other commercially available blogs. I later learned (or at least heard) that the Dept. of Ag. had (or has) a contract with an enterprise team for software for Web 2.0 and such — the much hated (at least by me and a few others) ROLLER software that is being used in the “official blog”. I remember being told that the ROLLER software was what was driving Wikipedia, so I didn’t think it would be a big problem a couple of years back.

    But now that I see what a mess the offical blog is two years later, I once again wonder why the WO/USDA doesn’t just leap into “off the shelf” packages. There are few things that the Forest Service does that are in the category of “national security” or even “homeland security”. Any that might qualify could be dealt with easily by excluding them from being aired on the “off the shelf” packages. An added advantage is that there is total firewall protection with the commercial packages — I assume. Whatever is being developed on a commercially available blog/wiki would not interface in any way with what is being developed/aired on government servers. If the gov. wanted to transport it “over” to government servers that ought to be easily done in a safe way, I’d guess.

    Maybe I just don’t get it. But I suspect we are dealing mostly with “wooden headed bureaucrats” else “enterprise teams” that are oxymoronic in name and aren’t earning their pay.

  4. I have asked them, in regular conference calls a couple of years ago. I have asked Peter Williams recently who still communes with them, and will continue to “prod.”

    I was also glad to see this AM that John Rupe (great blogger that he has become) said that the video clips from the science panels will be available soon. Finally, the success of this blog will likely be the biggest catalyst in getting the USDA and/or the Forest Service to change their views re: blogs/wikis.


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