“Local Questions Decided On Local Grounds”: Not in This Century?

This is a guest post from Bob Zybach (photo above). It carries forward from Matthew’s and my discussion about local people, and is the national government of the US treating its’ own local folks views differently than, say, international conservation organizations recommend. This previous discussion can be found here.

The question is whether each taxpayer should equally get to decide what happens on national forests, or to what extent local people, and local and state governments should have “more” of a voice.

Here is Bob’s piece.

When Pinchot and Roosevelt first put the Forest Service together under the auspices of the USDA, Pinchot authored the Congressionally-approved 1905 “Use Book,” intended to provide for management of the federal forest reserves. The very first sentences in this manual were:

“TO THE PUBLIC. The timber, water, pasture, mineral, and other resources of the forest reserves are for the use of the people. They may be obtained under reasonable conditions, without delay. Legitimate improvements and business enterprises will be encouraged.

Forest reserves are open to all persons for all lawful purposes.”

And it becomes more explicit thereafter:

“We know that the welfare of every community is dependent upon a cheap and plentiful supply of timber; that a forest cover is the most effective means of maintaining a regular stream flow for irrigation and other useful purposes; and that the permanence of the livestock industry [Note: this is before automobiles and McDonalds] depends upon the conservative use of the range.” (p. 7)

“The administration of forest reserves is not for the benefit of the Government, but of the people.” (p. 12)

And in a letter from the Secretary of Agriculture to Pinchot, in conjunction with the Act authorizing the transfer of the forest reserves from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture:

“‘You will see to it that the water, wood, and forage of the reserves are conserved and wisely used for the benefit of the home builder first of all, upon whom depends the best permanent use of lands and resources alike . . . In the management of each reserve local questions will be decided upon local grounds . . . and where conflicting interests must be reconciled the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.” (p. 11)

The part that keeps getting left out by modern-day “conservationists” is that it is “the greatest number” of LOCAL people that Pinchot is talking about: i.e., “the local demand is always considered first.”

This is what people are talking about,when they speak of indigenous people; local homebuilders and their businesses — only now it is other people in other countries in competition with our own that seems to draw this kind of attention — not US taxpayer “local” people. Somehow, their needs and interests don’t seem to count for much anymore when it comes to the use and management of their local lands.

We are the only country in history to encourage our forests to burn up in wildfires and then let the remnants rot in place until the next wildfire — and to spend billions of dollars making sure this happens! We must obviously be very wealthy to even allow such a condition to evolve.

What a stupid waste, is my opinion. I’m in favor of real conservation instead, and of local resource management — as described by Pinchot and promised by Congress.

45 thoughts on ““Local Questions Decided On Local Grounds”: Not in This Century?”

  1. You speak of the Use Book as if it were a Bible handed down from above, rather than a policy manual written before the Model T was built, when there were fewer than 85 million people in this country and more of them lived in the countryside than in cities. Not to mention before we had a significant scientific understanding of ecosystem management.

      • The Constitution has been amended a great number of times since its writing. Are you arguing that the Use Book – a far less settled document – supersedes MUSY, the Wilderness Act, RPA, NFMA, NEPA, FLPMA and the wide array of other federal land policy legislation affecting national forests?

        The people of the United States, in Congress assembled, explicitly passed those laws to implement multiple-use and ecological principles as the framework for public lands management, recognizing the long-term importance of these lands as a national asset providing a wide array of resource values – not just timber extraction.

        I’m not saying the alphabet soup is perfect. But the lands of the United States belong to the people – all of the people. That the people of the United States have decided to do something with national forest land other than what a local resident might prefer is neither here nor there.

        By your standard, the Shell drill rigs would already be punching holes in the tundra of the ANWR wilderness, because hey, pretty much everyone in Alaska wants it to happen, the pesky fact that it’s a Congressionally-designated national wildlife refuge notwithstanding.

  2. Congrats to Doctor Zybach and Sharon for revealing your true affinities for each other’s shared points of view along with shared preferred tactics to advance them: cherry-picking history, selectively isolating irrelevant facts, and ignoring the actual causation of our present converging ecological crises relative to the pervasive mismanagement even the USFS admits has occurred on our NFS. The inferences and implications as to where the problem lies are as unmistakeable (the faults lie with the non-local American public?) as laughable. Needless to say, this NFS mismanagement has not occurred due to an excess application of stewardship and conservation.

    In regards to Sharon’s “IUCN” quote in the referenced dialog with Matthew:

    “Indigenous and local communities are rightful primary partners in the development and implementation of conservation strategies that affect their lands, waters, and other resources, and in particular in the establishment and management of protected areas. ”
    (Sounds great, and if you believe this Sharon, there’s an exclusive one-time offer for you to own the Brooklyn Bridge NOW — for an incredibly low price…)

    First, Sharon, you avoid the fact that IUCN has long-been exposed along with their corporate-funded greenwashing partners, (Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and other multinational corporate front groups using “conservation” to advance neoliberal agendas in resource-rich third world countries) to the severe detriment of “locals” and indigenous cultures. For instance, IUCN accepted large sums of money from the multinational Electricite de France (EDF), one of the world’s largest electricity utilities while greenwashing highly damaging hydroelectric projects in Laos and elsewhere.

    Second, IUCN has chosen to greenwash Shell of all multinationals, among the most notorious oil companies in human history implicated in the use of torture, assassination and countless other human rights violations including systematic murders of local indigenous activist leaders protesting Shell’s massive egregious pollution violations. (In 2009, Shell agreed to pay $15.5m in a legal settlement. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5934)

    I could go on and on with these examples, such as how the indigenous tribes of Southeast Alaska were transformed into native corporations operating in the white man’s image — providing a striking example of just how (in Doctor Zybach’s words),”real conservation” and “local resource management” actually works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRQre80IVj4

    One thing is clear: Sharon and Doctor Zybach have a lot more research work to accomplish before their unique views on how these examples of “local” conservation will work on our NFS in order to convince myself and many, many others of the merits of their opinions.

    To quote the author, “What a stupid waste, is my opinion (sic).”(Doctor Zybach)

  3. David, it seems to me that if as you say, IUCN has been the proponent of programs to the detriment of locals and eve they now say this…:

    The current investment and management process often simply results in compensation for loss of access to land or resources — a neocolonial model — rather than a genuine shared enterprise. In contrast, a “rights-based” system places local control at the heart of the process. Under this system, the people who own or have rights over the forest are the ones who seek investors and partnerships for managing their natural resource assets.

    “The rights-based approach recognizes local people’s autonomy and their rights to determine the land’s destiny and to gain income from its effective management,” said Minni Degawan, Project Coordinator for KADIOAN, an Indigenous Peoples organization based in the Philippines. “Empowering local people to make decisions on commercial forest management and land, with secure tenure rights, the ability to build their own organizations and access to markets and technology can be a highly effective way of raising incomes and protecting forestry resources.”

    To me, given what you said, that makes it an even stronger statement coming from them.

    The quote is from a previous blog post here.

    BTW David, sometimes your statements about me seem to have a negative tone (instead of simply critiquing my arguments, which is fine.) Just wanted to know that I believe that you are a beloved child of Gaia (or pick any spirit synonym you prefer). Namaste, David.

    • Sharon,
      Did you read the links I provided? Are you oblivious to the Orwellian use of language and the phenomenon of greenwashing?

      Forgive me, I am steeped in this stuff, have assembled massive files documenting the evidence and follow it closely on a daily basis in an effort to understand where the problem lies and how to address causation. It is a grimly fascinating avocation inspired by hope and purpose.

      I am also intimately involved on the local level with USFS “stewardship and restoration” of astounding past mismanagement. That “restoration” is being deceptively pitched as a genuine “Transition”, but is nothing more than standard pre commercial thinning practices derived from 18 century discoveries of how to maximize crop yields. The most cynical part of “restoration” is that it is being funded by retained (deficit-derived) “revenues” arising from precisely the same clear cutting activities and willfully-deferred road maintenance which led to the need for “restoration” in the first place.

      This is plainly, perpetual mismanagement.

      Mighty peculiar on the local level — especially when the local Ranger District resorts to fraud in the NEPA documents, and is in direct collusion with our state government which muzzles and censors their biologists’ concerns in the EIS. Again, the fanciful notion that local and state governments will do a better job by allowing national forest policy to be devolved to local stakeholders’ whims and fancies is as transparently deceitful as the Orwellian use of “restoration” and a demonstrably disastrous direction for our NFS.

      The problem lies with lies, denialism, and the staggering indifference of the privileged few of the planet who hold most of the power. Mirrored on the international level, there is a well demonstrated positive correlation between the budgets of multinational conservation organizations and the human misery they profess to be meaningfully mitigating.

      The problem lies with perpetuating unspeakable human tragedies arising from savage corporate predatory behavior elevated to a planetary scale — aided and abetted by billion dollar “nonprofit” conservation organizations, funded by multi-billionaire corporate “philanthropists”, who endorse “free trade” agreements nullifying sovereign democratic processes and constituencies, and who nurture the pandemic of transglobal governmental corruption, and the neoliberal policies advancing America’s neocolonial objectives.

      Sorry, this moral outrage deserves a negative tone.

      Please understand I am disagreeing the most with your blithe statements devoid of objective scrutiny and due diligence. I expect more than this. They imply a peculiar disinterest in the “conservation” players’ role partnered with perpetrators of unspeakable criminalities. They mirror the corporatized agendas of the captured agency you once worked for. These corporate front groups touting conservation (as another demonstration of corporate vertical integration) are merely serving to provide the positive PR spin in our daily news cycles in order to maintain and mask this grisly predatory business pitched to the public as “market based solutions.”

      Are their expressed intentions and platitudinous mission statements admirable? Oh yes. Are there many good people in these organizations doing good things? Oh yes, indeed.

      But are they meaningfully altering the incidence and more importantly, causation of daily horrors lived by locals and indigenous tribes? Absolutely not. They are meaningfully presiding over neocolonial biofuel plantations where once stood ancestral tribal forests. They are presiding over the transition to slave labor opportunities to meet “green energy” goals for the twisted benefit of sheltered shareholders in far away places.

      Take, for example, WWF, CI, and The Nature Conservancy’s (et al.) role in facilitating “Debt for Nature” swaps as reported in Wiki:

      Overstated financial benefits
      “Debt-for-nature swaps produce only minor debt reductions and generate far less funding than the face value of the debt purchased in the secondary market.[7] The amount of public debt relieved by debt-for-nature swaps, even in the countries that participate in swaps regularly, accounts for less than 1% of total external debt.[10] Also, if the indebted country does not engage in conservation in the absence of a debt-for-nature agreement, the swap may not provide the indebted country a social welfare improvement or any fiscal space in the national budget.[11][7] The government of the indebted country is still responsible for payment of the debt, albeit to a conservation organization rather than to the creditor. Also, the funds produced through the agreement may replace other forms of aid, debt assistance, or conservation funding.”

      “There is a positive correlation between the debt crisis and environmental degradation. Largely, the causal factor is associated with the austerity programs mandated by the IMF and World Bank.” http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/~spgp/Fall%202003/11_21_03/Thappa%201998.pdf

      The same foundations funding these multinational “conservation” functionaries of exploitation of third world countries are also funding such nonprofits as “Ecosystem Marketplace” whose main goal is to commodify other country’s forests, biodiversity, carbon, etc. for the purposes of financial speculation (to the direct benefit of conservation funders) in the same unregulated derivatives markets which brought about our (still) “Great Recession” in the first place.

      Why does this matter? Besides the moral outrage, it’s coming home to roost Sharon.

      Please see Thom Hartmann’s, “How America is turning into a Third World Nation in 4 Easy Steps” http://www.alternet.org/print/economy/how-america-turning-3rd-world-nation-4-easy-steps.

  4. May I call your attention to the last sentence of Secretary Wilson’s Feb. 1, 1905 letter to Pinchot?

    “‘..and where conflicting interests must be reconciled the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run. These general principles … can be successfully applied only when the administration of each reserve is left very largely in the hands of the local officers, under the eye of thoroughly trained and competent inspectors.”

    The abandonment of this key principle of local control and the substitution of management by folks from Hoboken, Sausalito, Gaia-ville or wherever (nice, well-intentioned people) is responsible, in large part, for the present condition of our National Forests as typified by the photo and text of this webpage.

  5. I find it hard to swallow the ludicrous comparison of our north Idaho local residents and “builders” and businesses to truly indigenous native tribes who actually live in and totally depend on their forests for food, clothing and all necessities of life. It is a stupid and nonsensical comparison.

    I know of NO local people or businesses who are totally dependent on the IPNF. None. Zero. Back in the 50’s there was a character called the “Ridge Runner” who lived year-round on the Clearwater NF breaking into USFS cabins, stealing food and supplies, etc. So I guess there has been one such indigenous person in the past century.

    If you local-supporters would go into the local lumber yard where these local builders get their wood products, you would find that most (if not all) of the wood has been imported from another state or Canada. It isn’t local. Yes, the sawmills (what few are left) do depend on local trees for their raw product, but most of this supply is from private forestlands.

    I would guess that a great majority of local communities around the PNW are no longer critically dependent on national forest logs, as they have transformed into more diversified forms of commerce. Yes, a lot of this change is tied to the reduction in timber availability from the national forests, but that is another issue.

    Locals should have a significant say in management of our forests, but not a dominant voice. The fact that they are right here, with access in minutes to the rangers and forester supervisors on a face-to-face basis if they wish, already gives them a nudge up in consideration of their views. I know from personal experience that a county commissioner’s input will be given a bit more thought and consideration than a letter from some college student in Maine. But thousands of such letters from throughout the nation supporting a particular issue should not be relegated to the trash bin because they are not “local”.
    All in all, this thread about the intent of Pinchot and Roosevelt and Congress from a century back is interesting but just as flawed as those from the NRA who claim the 2nd Amendment gives me the right to own any weapon I choose, a bazooka or .50 caliber sniper rifle. Out of date and out of context with today. Lets get real.

    • Ed: You are mangling the language in order to support your viewpoint. Nobody ever said that “indigenous” meant “totally dependent” on local forests for “food, clothing and all necessities of life,” until you did. The word means nothing of the sort, and makes the remainder of your assertions just as “flawed” (to use your terminology). People have been engaged in travel and trade for thousands of years, and have continued these practices to the present time — mostly in order to supplement their supplies of food, clothing, breeding stock, and the “other necessities of life.”

      According to Wikipedia: “indigenous peoples primarily refers to ethnic groups that have historical ties to groups that existed in a territory prior to colonization or formation of a nation state.” Idaho became a State in 1890 and could probably be considered “colonized” sometime between the establishment of the Oregon Trail in the early 1840s and Oregon statehood in 1859.

      There are still Chinookan, Nez Perce, and Paiute descendents of early Idaho historical families that still live in the State — and the same can be said for descendents of goldminers, ranchers, farmers, missionaries, trappers, and others who became Idaho residents before it was “colonized” or became a State — and, according to Wikipedia — these constitute only the “primary” indigenous groups in Idaho. Others should be considered as well, even if they are only “secondary” indigenous sorts.

      Local people are local people, and maybe that designation is particularly true for people whose families have lived in an area for a number of generations. I’ve never heard of anyone ever who “totally depend[ed] on their forests for food, clothing and all necessities of life”; except maybe “Ridge Runner, as you suggest, but my money is on the bet that he was a disaffected “outsider” who moved to Idaho in order to escape something — and not an indigenous person at all.

      Or are you saying that white people can’t be considered indigenous to an area? If that is what you are claiming, then I agree with your clarifying statement that “it is a stupid and nonsensical comparison.” I just don’t accept your definition of indigenous is my problem. It sounds racist and condescending, whatever the intent.

    • The “National Forests are for everyone” is the usual justification enviros use when they know their policies wouldn’t get 20% of the local vote. To say that someone in San Francisco should have an equal say in what happens in Montana is about as ludicrous as me having an equal say in how Golden Gate park is managed. You can bet that’s how the San Franciscan would think? To say that local concerns should be equal to those of some guy stuck in a San Fransico traffic jam who feels good about himself just knowing there’s wilderness out there somewhere in Montana, just doesn’t hold water.

      Yes, Pinchot did sell the USFS with promises to the locals that they would benefit from the USFS. The USFS made a “sea change” back in the 90’s when they changed policies from one that managed forests for the locals to one that favored managing forests for Bill Clinton’s enviro buddies. That had big reprucusions with the local forester’s relations with the community he himself lived in. I would imagine that even today many USFS employees are reluctant to tell their neighbors at the soccer game who they work for. I would also imagine it’s had a lot to do with declining moral among USFS employees who are stuck in these small communities who now view the USFS with disdain(despise is too strong of a word). Maybe the guy in San Fransico could freind them on Facebook.

      To infer that the USFS isn’t an important supplier of local timber (which Ed didn’t really quite do)by saying most comes from “private land anyway”,doesn’t really show the whole picture. Yes, private is very important, probably makes up 60% of the supply. A timber beast freind of mine said that ironically, the only thing that has kept their mill open in Montana was the huge supply of beetle killed timber from private landowners (like Ted Turner) who want to get rid of it. Before this summers “Ash Creek fire” burned off 4 out of 5 Goshawk nests(the eco criminals at the Native Ecosystems destroyed those nest as sure as if they would have clearcut them with 3 years of litigation…but thats another story)on the Custer National Forest, the timber was sold to “Tricon” timber in St. Regis Montana. They were gonna road haul it 50 miles to the nearest rail head, and then rail it 600 miles from extreme southeast Montana to extreme northwest Montana. Sounds like there’s a demand for USFS timber. The stumpage Montana mills pay the USFS are extremely high…which seems to show a demand for USFS timber. They regularly pay up to $100/MBF for MPB killed lodgepole..while the USFS in Colorado sells it for $10 (now you see why those bankrupt Colorado mills were just bought).

      Speaking of Colorado. Awhile back I was lookin in a lumber yard in Breckenridge…and saw boards from Idaho Forest Products.

      • “I would imagine that even today many USFS employees are reluctant to tell their neighbors at the soccer game who they work for. I would also imagine it’s had a lot to do with declining moral among USFS employees who are stuck in these small communities who now view the USFS with disdain…”

        Yep, good points.

        • JZ- that might be worthy of a post of its own. Maybe a good discussion for a Forest Service lunch discussion or leadership training. “Do you feel comfortable telling people who you work for? Why or why not?”

          And of course, in smaller communities, it’s really not a choice. Everyone knows.

          As for me, it is quite the opposite. Even coming back on the plane from SAF, a person spoke to me implying the Forest Service shouldn’t have “allowed” oil and gas exploration a mile and a half from her house. Whatever the complexity of federal energy policies and regulations, it was the FS who got the blame.

          Probably because of where I live, or who I hang with, I get mostly “the forest service has screwed up by not being environmental enough”. Of course, based on my previous piece on “Elk Country”, I’m definitely in Metro Elk country.

      • Golden Gate Park is owned the by people of the City and County of San Francisco.

        National forests are owned by the people of the United States of America.

        Thus, your analogy completely fails.

        If you want to suggest that federal public lands should be sold off en masse, you are welcome to try getting that approved by Congress. I would note that states never seem as thrilled about that idea as ideologues would think, given that they would end up with significantly more land to manage with a very limited additional tax base. The Sagebrush Rebellion collapsed in a flaming pile of fail for exactly that reason.

        • Travis, I said the Presidio, not Golden Gate Park.

          “The Presidio is an urban national park that celebrates history, environment, and community, and that honors the Presidio’s legacy of service..”

          Here’s their website.

          Thus, your criticism of my analogy completely fails.

          Now, we were discussing an interesting topic. If local people are “special”, how special are they and how is that shown? I never said a thing about selling off the public lands. I just want to explore this concept both from the point of view of general decisions and also from the standpoint of the workforce hired to do the work.

          • Huh?

            Sharon, it seems clear that Travis and myself are responding to this statement from Derek: “To say that someone in San Francisco should have an equal say in what happens in Montana is about as ludicrous as me having an equal say in how Golden Gate park is managed.”

            I see no mention of the Presidio anywhere on this thread except for comment #14.

            Anyway….Who really gives a poop?

            • Sorry, I had a comment about the Presidio earlier that I thought had given rise to this thread. Also that it is in a trust (interesting because of the discussion of trusts).

              People give a “poop”.. I guess, because some local people feel that their concerns aren’t being heard. This concern gives rise to all kinds of bad feelings and possibly bad ideas, and unnecessary partisanization, Some people feel like their opinions get trumped by the federal courts based on non-local environmental groups deciding they want to fight something.

              So that’s why I think it’s important to talk about these things openly, and with a listening ear. Otherwise the battle will go on politically, with outcomes none of us might prefer, with an extremely high “vitriol to useful public dialogue” ratio.

            • Well then, if you simply substitute Golden Gate NRA, the analogy is valid. Yep, what if 90% of midwest respondents said that they want a rollercoaster theme park installed in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge? You think that Bay Area folks would welcome those opinions as equal to theirs???

      • Derek, In case you didn’t realize, federal national forests belong equally to all Americans, regardless of your zip code. The same is true of Yellowstone National Park and Gettysburg National Military Park. However, Golden Gate Park is run by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks.

        You are an American citizen living in South Dakota, therefore you are an equal owner of the federal national parks and forests; however, you have nothing to do with the management (fiscal or otherwise) of a city park in San Francisco. Get it?

        • Matthew, I said the Presidio, not GG Park.
          We are all equal owners of the Presidio, the New Orleans National Jazz Park, the Lowell National Historic Park. The question is “what does it mean to be an “equal owner”?

          I really doubt that Jane Olivera’s, from Rifle, Colorado,opinion will be equal in weight to folks in San Francisco about the Presidio, to folks in New Orleans about the Jazz Park, or folks in Lowell about the Lowell Historic Park. But perhaps that’s not what you’re saying?

          • Sharon, I still doesn’t see where you said that (except in the comments saying you said it) but it really doesn’t matter because I wasn’t responding to you, I was responding to Derek and his Golden Gate Park claim. I suspect Travis was also responding to Derek. Jeez Louise….

          • Oh please Derek. Remember, it was you who made on-line comments so threatening against me that the Missoulian had to remove them from their site.

            Be a man and own up to the fact that you made this ridiculous analogy:

            “To say that someone in San Francisco should have an equal say in what happens in Montana is about as ludicrous as me having an equal say in how Golden Gate park is managed.”

            • matthew-i don’t think you’re being fair to Derek, and the misunderstanding was actually my fault.

              I am the one who posted about the Presidio and then deleted it so he couldn’t refer to it.

              I also don’t see that calling Derek out for past sins is really relevant to this discussion.

                • There is a Golden Gate Park owned by the city. There is Golden Gate National Recreation Area that is federal and the Presidio, which is federal. Not sure about a state park.

                  It is vaguely spooky that you and I were thinking the same thing with different details at the same time. Perhaps we are both tapped into the same Gaia consciousness…

      • The “sea change” was made by Congress in the 1970s with the adoption of the National Forest Management Act and complementary environmental laws, e.g., NEPA and ESA. The FS did its best to ignore these laws until the late 80s when the courts were called upon to enforce them.

        Clinton inherited the accumulated mess, which was resolved as Sen. Humphrey envisioned in 1976: “The days have ended when the forest may be viewed only as trees and trees viewed only as timber. The soil and the water, the grasses and the shrubs, the fish and the wildlife, and the beauty that is the forest must become integral parts of resource managers’ thinking and actions.”

        • Ah, the rule of law. The great equalizer. The rule of law as interpreted by some judges who live in San Francisco.But Andy makes a good point. How much blame should be assigned to the USFS for the “local disdain?” I give it half and half with enviro litigation. I hope I wasn’t to harsh on the USFS.. As we see on forests in the eastern region and south,which I don’t think has a lot of litigation, the USFS can still get out the cut pretty good. Albiet at 60% of the 80’s, which is a far cry from the 25% in the Northern. I don’t know if anyone seriously proposes a return to the 80’s. I’ve read their FOrest Plans, and there was no doubt they were gonna convert the Kootenai to a “well regulated” timber basket by 2050. But there’s no doubt the USFS changed it’s mission in the Clinton era. I remember reading a new Forest Plan from the late 90’s in a non-litigated no endangered species forest where timber harvest was reduced by 30%, and the reason given was simply “changing public vaues.” I think the idea was to grow more old growth,but the reality has become growing more bug trees. Didn’t Dombeck once brag that “we’ve reduced timber harvest by 80%?” I’ve always wondered what “target timber harvest” Jack Ward Thomas, who seems like a very “moderate” man with much support in the Montana timber community, had in mind before the bottom fell out.

          One only needs to look at Sen. Tester’s “Beaverhead Partnership” to clearly see the disconnect that has grown between the USFS and the locals. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF released it’s revised “Plan” a few years ago. It was DOA with the folks in Montana, and Tester’s Partnership was the result. The plan had less “suitable”, more closed roads, and 300 pages on wildlife and barely a dismisive page on “timber harvest.” It sounded like it was written to appease environmentalists while the locals lost more ground. Who wants a new planning rule? The locals loose with every new plan. It was pretty obvious to the reader that wildlife was in, and you’re out.Look, when even the Missoulian, hardly a bunch of right wing tea baggers or redneck knuckle draggers, endorses Testers plan,you realize the width and depth of the chasm that has developed between the USFS and the local public.

          I would say that the “sea change” in USFS management was managing the forests for the Urban and not the Rural. Congress writes the laws, and the judge’s interpret them(some may say re-interprets)…so why doesn’t congress amend their law. As this last election shows, the Democrats are the party of the city. When you look at an election map of the country, just about every county in Pennsylvania, Michagan, Wisconsin, is “red”, while the cities are blue. Why should a Democrat politician care to revise NEPA or the NFMA, when he benefits absolutely nothing, and looses much. His constituents “feel good” about themselves knowing that the forests are being “protected.”

          If the Northern region “ups” the timber harvest to 350 MMBF, as the Obama admistration has proposed(another sign of the positive direction forestry is heading…not good for the radicals), that would be around 50% of the 80’s harvest. I would imagine that would go a long way towards alleviating the “disdain divide.”

          Well, enough wind for tonight.

    • Ed, going to pick on this comment…it struck me, since I’m involved in management of NFS land here in my beloved ID. I think you’re a little off the mark in a few places.

      “If you local-supporters would go into the local lumber yard where these local builders get their wood products, you would find that most (if not all) of the wood has been imported from another state or Canada. It isn’t local.”

      – Not true, at least in my little slice of the world, maybe in CDA. Stop patronizing the big box stores. Most/all of the wood I buy at the local hardware store for the for the juggernaut that is my home renovation quest is milled here in ID and PNW.

      “Yes, the sawmills (what few are left) do depend on local trees for their raw product, but most of this supply is from private forestlands.”

      -True, sorta…most mills depend on IDL logs in ID. You know what Raul and others are proposing to help improve the loss of SRS…see comments below.

      “I would guess that a great majority of local communities around the PNW are no longer critically dependent on national forest logs, as they have transformed into more diversified forms of commerce.”

      -Not true, the local communities are still dependent on the flow of logs, logging, mills, trucking, etc…at least where I live.

      “Yes, a lot of this change is tied to the reduction in timber availability from the national forests, but that is another issue.”

      -Is it really another issue??? Personally I think this IS the issue.

      “Locals should have a significant say in management of our forests, but not a dominant voice….”

      -That is certainly a two edged sword that I’d gladly use any day when conservation groups argue for their viewpoint…and all of the what? Couple thousand at best constituents they have?

      “All in all, this thread about the intent of Pinchot and Roosevelt and Congress from a century back is interesting but just as flawed as those from the NRA who claim the 2nd Amendment gives me the right to own any weapon I choose, a bazooka or .50 caliber sniper rifle. Out of date and out of context with today. Lets get real.”

      -Now THAT is another issue…

  6. “These general principles … can be successfully applied only when the administration of each reserve is left very largely in the hands of the local officers, under the eye of thoroughly trained and competent inspectors.”

    This quote as per Mac’s comment clearly does not mention local residents, it says local officers under the eye of …inspectors. A big difference, in my estimation. And again, we must take the directions and comments from the distant past in perspective with today’s situation. The forests of today are truly national in use, in stark contrast to the uses in 1905. That is obvious, don’t you think?

    • Ed, I’m willing to think about “who uses them” as a relevant criterion for whom should be more involved in decisions.
      Like urban mushroom hunters in PNW forests. Like Texas hunters in, or Chicago second-home owners around, Colorado NFs. But that’s different from a random person in New York City having as much of a voice as a person from Delta, Colorado on what happens on the GMUG forest.

      That was the formulation given to me by a Senior Executive at EPA one night at dinner in Delta while we were taking a respite from a formal interagency mediation session.

  7. Ever since the appearance in USFS parlance of the term, “stakeholders”, it was clear where the policy direction would be going.

    I’m reminded of how I felt after submitting comments to the FCC when I was addressed in their reply as, “Dear Consumer.” I thought, now wait a minute — the FCC is obligated to act in the best interests of the public which has standing on the basis of their collective ownership rights in the public airwaves.

    This collective ownership is based upon citizenship, not on whether someone happens to be “consuming” Fox News or not.

    Similarly, the United States Forest Service (which is obligated to non-discriminatory practices) is adopting the same discriminatory behavior as the FCC. The USFS is engaging in discriminatory practices every time they attack collective ownership rights of all citizens by creating a special place at the “collaboration” table for local “consumers” as “stakeholders.”

    Stakeholders, like stockholders, have self-interests which supersede collective ownership interests. The decidedly un-level playing field created by collaborating stakeholders is not rocket science — it’s straightforward manipulation of the public process creating have’s and have-nots within the collective pool of owners.

    I’ve really enjoyed following this discussion as participants reveal their allegiances to this permutation of how to enable the capitalist conundrum: “How to enrich themselves (and/or gratify their chosen ideologies) by finding a new way to gain a personal or ideological advantage in achieving exploitation of common property resources?

    Very illuminating indeed.

  8. Ed. Having been a “local officer” in the good old days ( District Ranger, Hemphill, TX, 1950s), I can say that “local officers” were local residents, fully a part of, intimately involved with, and totally aware of the wishes of the community in which we lived. I’m afraid that that cannot be said of many (most) of today’s local officers. District consolidations, increased populations in headquarter towns, and shortened tenure have detached the local officer from the community. At the same time, non-local interests whose emphasis is on preservation have emerged, become better-funded and more vocal, and the philosophy of timber non-management has become dominant. The results are evident throughout the west,where the older stands are more vulnerable to insect and disease attack triggered by climate change. The now-popular “let nature take its course” stance will inevitably impact the south and east in a similar fashion

    To put another spin on this discussion — It seems to me that, as a matter of common sense, management direction should be determined by folks who know what they’re talking about. Does a comment on even-age management from a little old lady (or perhaps an ecologist?) from Des Moines carry as much weight as a comment from a local logger who has worked and hunted in the forest all of his life, or from a professor of silviculture from the state University? Is it “one person, one vote” for complex issues involving resource trade-offs with little understood environmental,social, and economic implications (Think roadless areas)? Should comments be weighted by qualification or are all commentators created equal?

  9. Mac, of course all comments and commenters are not equal. If a high-school student from Chicago makes a comment about timber cutting on the IPNF where he has never been, and he obviously has no real education/experience in forest management, his comment will not be given as much credence as that from a forest ecologist from the U of Montana.
    But that is not the point of this thread. We started out with a somewhat silly interjection by Sharon (or someone) that seemed to attempt painting locals living around any national forest with the same colors as “indigenous” peoples as per the UN.

    (“Indigenous peoples primarily refers to ethnic groups that have historical ties to groups that existed in a territory prior to colonization or formation of a nation state, and which normally preserve a degree of cultural and political separation from the mainstream culture and political system of the nation state within the border of which the indigenous group is located. The political sense of the term defines these groups as particularly vulnerable to exploitation and oppression by nation states”…Wikipedia).
    As I stated previously, this is nonsense. A local Ace Hardware store owner who moved here from Orange County is not indigenous.

    In summary I firmly believe that in policy issues that are not linked or controlled by hard science, such as the visual or social qualities of some roadless cirque basin, the views of a New York back-packer should not be weighted less than a local logger, just because of the miles involved, or because that logger needs some logs.
    The practical reality is that the locals have a substantial advantage in getting their views considered just because they are nearby and can meet and greet and cajole in person. The USFS decision-makers don’t need to add another thumb to the scales of decision to favor them more.

    • Most loggers want a lot more than just logs. They want their finished work to look good, so they can show it off to other people. Loggers also want to spend their money on new boots, a newer work truck, and maybe a bigger 30″ flat screen TV. They want a healthy and safe forest environment to live and work in. There is a LOT more to projects than just logs, as small as those logs are, around here. The minimum commercial-sized tree has a log 10.0″ at dhb and at least a 6″ top at 10.5 feet. We cut a lot of those 10-14″ dbh trees.

  10. And Mac, I might add that there are no hardware stores in the CDA area here in north Idaho that sell lumber. Only place to get a board here is Lowes or Home Depot. And none of it (at last time I checked) is local, and most not even regional in origin. I regret this, but it’s a fact. Dressed wood from China next?

    • Ed- I have oftem thought about starting a “local wood is good” lobbying effort at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

      I wonder of that’s “something we all agree on”?

  11. Oops. Spoke too soon,as I recall there is one small, lumber outlet in Hayden that I overlooked. Not sure of their wood supplier. Will shut up now!

  12. Regarding Mac McConnell’s question: Should comments be weighted by qualification or are all commentators created equal?

    Years ago I asked a USFS staffer how she “weighed” comments from the general public (not from forestry professionals). She said: Directly affected = more weight. Indirectly affected = less weight. Affected only cumulatively by similar actions = even less weight.

    • Brian, that seems fairly commonsensical but it may also become more complex when you consider local and national groups of various kinds.

      • I was going to say the same thing.. in some cases, that’s because they are paying more attention and know more stuff about the project, in other cases because you need to fix what they think is wrong in the documentation before the appeal. It is a natural human tendency to avoid litigation, so it might make it “appealing” (so to speak) to just agree to what they want, if you can and still meet the purpose and need.

        To be fair, sometimes they have good ideas, as well, and notice things that the people planning the project overlooked.

        • Or even more perverse is to build into the project “throw away” acres that can be used as a bargaining chip during the appeal resolution….makes the routine appellants think they’re getting something. Oops, is the cat outta the bag?

          I do agree that “they” sometimes do have good ideas/observations. I find it interesting what a simple (non-collaborative) discussion can reveal towards the betterment of project planning. The bunker mentality doesn’t serve anyone’s interests (at least if “they” are genuine, which I often question).

  13. I was just talking Southeast Alaska weather in the store with a neighbor and asked him how much wood he puts up. He said 10-12 cords a year. He was complaining, each year he has to go farther and farther. I’ve seen the public firewood areas — they’re truly an unnatural disaster zone with obviously no regulatory oversight. Posted regs are ignored, permits are ignored, District Ranger budgets to provide enforcement and oversight are ignored, while the public is resorting to using their ATV’s with trailers to get farther, and farther away from the road system leaving huge erosion scars affecting anadromous streams, leaving slash to clog the culverts and trashed vegetation. I won’t expound on the appliances and household trash heaps left by the roadsides.

    This is a town of 3000 and with the price of heating fuel going up ($4/gal) everyone thinks local firewood is a great idea too. Consequently, the air quality in town is horrendous on still nights. Add to this, many households obviously burning plastic in their wood stoves, and there is obviously a serious public health issue.

    A significant portion of the local economy comes from seasonal tourists who spend a good deal of money traveling to the Tongass National Forest only to get on the road system to realize our forests are no different from the trashed landscapes of the Lower 48. Everywhere the excuse is the same — depleting agency budgets.

    These local resource depletion issues in combination with past clear cutting have resulted in our island having the most restricted deer season in Southeast Alaska.

    Keep in mind, these are the realities of how local attitudes affect collectively owned landscapes all Americans expect to be properly managed in their best interests.

    Just thought I’d add some on the ground reality (strikingly reminiscent of the Soviet Union collapse) to the Norman Rockwell picture being painted here.

  14. David, if your town were a village in some other country, would we be compassionate to the local people who maybe can’t afford other sources of heat? And whose land is managed by people whose heads are far away and don’t have the bucks to really manage it? Just askin’

    Notice that the Nature Conservancy has a program in Conservation and Human Well Being here http://www.nature.org/ourscience/conservation-and-poverty-reduction-project.xml

    I know you don’t think much of them, but I think it’s worth thinking about.note that there are two US examples, one in Alabama and one in Nebraska.


Leave a Comment