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.