21st Century Problems- Overuse and Abuse

Here’s a great description of some of the 21st century challenges facing federal forest land management. An interesting quote:

According to a survey, a large number of visitors also included low-income, low-education, often minority visitors looking for a free swimming hole and an escape from the Valley’s swelter. The Forest Service consultant said few of these visitors have attended the hearings on use of the creek.

Also in this piece is a quote

Fossil Creek: first lay the foundation

Let’s say you want to build the most beautiful house in the world. You’ve got a great piece of land, with a killer view. You’ve got a design. And you’ve got a bunch of relatives who want to spend the night. Quick: Let’s build it. No time for nagging details — like pouring the foundation. Just nail together the walls.

Hopefully, that’s not the approach the Forest Service will take to protecting Fossil Creek, a national treasure. About 50 people from this community showed up at a long hearing in Payson to offer suggestions, as the Forest Service weighs the future of that resurrected creek.

There was a wide range of heartfelt ideas — from shutting down the road to building campgrounds and an interpretative center. So how do you decide? How do you deal with the often-conflicting needs of the people who want to visit the creek? How do you tell the difference between the foundation and a picture window?

We think the Forest Service should bolt its plan for Fossil Creek to the foundation of a healthy, diverse ecosystem, which can serve as a refuge for a host of endangered and threatened species.

Fossil Creek has the makings of a national park or a wildlife refuge. The gush of water tinted blue green with dissolved limestone has created a string of pools and natural dams just two hours from the fifth largest city in the country.

I wonder why it is that people feel beautiful areas should become national parks or wildlife refuges. What is it that they know how to do that the Forest Service doesn’t know how to do? What are those preferred management actions that make it OK to charge if it is managed by the National Park Service but not the Forest Service? All public lands BLM, FS, FWS and Park Service will be confronting the same challenges if they are close to growing communities. Should the Feds attempt to harmonize how we deal with those issues?

4 thoughts on “21st Century Problems- Overuse and Abuse”

  1. In response to your musings, “I wonder why it is that people feel beautiful areas should become national parks or wildlife refuges,” I would point out that you are correct as this trend can be seen in many other areas across the US. For example, the study to expand Walnut Canyon National Monument or turn the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the Park Service.

    I think there are two distinct forces at play that result in this situation. First, I think many people want to see lands under BLM, FS, or other jurisdiction transferred to agencies with a more defined, ‘preservation’-based mission. Simply by changing the organization managing a piece of land, the management options are further defined and the debate over how to best manage an area is immediately re-framed. Thus, it can be an effective tool for meeting strategic goals by an organization or individuals without appearing too negative by appealing or threatening litigation against an agency-derived plan.

    The other force at play here is impatience of influence. Politicians want to look responsive to their constituents, and some constituents realize they will have more luck influencing a small number of congress members rather than agency public planning processes. You can see the same trend here with place-based forest legislation. Why go through a lengthy, rule-based public planning process when you can just work with your like-minded elected official to set the management goals and objectives for everyone? It seems a win-win… except for those that may have a different opinion and no public process through which to get involved.

    This is the first time I saw a recommendation of changing FS administration of the Fossil Creek area, but based on many other situations currently playing out I won’t be surprised to hear more of this.

  2. Thanks, Mike for these thoughts.

    if many folks feel like your quote..

    Why go through a lengthy, rule-based public planning process when you can just work with your like-minded elected official to set the management goals and objectives for everyone?

    I wonder if people’s positions on developing an elaborate unwieldy planning rule might be intentional- so that these processes will develop glacially and so that small groups working with legislators outside a public involvement process will seem more attractive..

  3. Congress has a long history of relieving the Forest Service of its management responsibility for special places. Ben Twight’s 1983 classic Organizational Values and Political Power – The Forest Service versus the Olympic National Park shows “how tenacious adherence to a value orientation by a bureaucracy, the U.S. Forest Service, guided that agency’s political decisions over a 29-year period [during the early 20th century] to its ultimate loss of jurisdiction over almost a million acres of public forest.”

    It’s not just the FS’s historic pro-logging agenda that has riled Congress. In 1978, when the Forest Service and Disney Corporation promoted a ski area in California’s Mineral King Valley, Congress stepped in to transfer management to Sequoia National Park.


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