Murkowski vs. Tidwell: Has the USFS lost it’s purpose?

Now I know why Murkowski is representing Alaska. I only wish she were representing Oregon, too. Or the USFS, better.

These are the questions she addresses in 4 minutes and 20 seconds:

Has the Forest Service outlived its original purpose of Multiple Use?

Does it now belong with the Department of Interior?

Should half of the FS budget be for putting out fires?

Why are there so many employees but very little cutting of timber?

(Thanks to Ted Stubblefield for this analysis)

19 thoughts on “Murkowski vs. Tidwell: Has the USFS lost it’s purpose?”

  1. One answer for all the questions: Because they have been changed into a social service agency that is now morphing into an agent of social engineering. The are about gender preferences, feeling good, being kind to each other, and social outreach to put anyone but a white male to work doing nothing. In other words, a worthless way to piss away billions in tax dollars and tens of billions in resource value. Worse, they are getting the job done. Arson is their major management function. Burn or let burn, and then justify the burn with contrived, after the fact, post fire discussions about what a brilliant decision it was to “let it burn.” If the “burn for resource use” fire went astray, then it was someone else’s fault and to our amazement, we have discovered that the fire did so much good that the bad is no longer relevant. We saved our jobs. All that can’t hold water due to the US Attorney and the US Justice Dept. suing to recover loss of timer in Wilderness Areas from fire from private property origin. How can timber that can’t be logged have log value? Who is the expert witness who determines “loss of grandeur of the landscape?” USFS is Ponzi scheme and a ripoff of tax dollars. You do NOTHING in a Wilderness. The taxpayer needs not spend a dime on salaries to people to pay them to do nothing. No public servants are needed to do nothing.

  2. Couple thoughts to ponder.
    –30,000 (+-) employees when they cut 10 Billion board foot, 30,000 now when they cut 2.5 BBF. I’m not trashing USFS employees..I think they can be pretty effective. I think to a large extent they’re “victims” here with tied hands and not the villain.
    –How much of the decline in timber harvest is due to “analysis paralysis”…and how much is due to USFS policy.
    –Here’s a simple one for the peoples data base. What is the USFS budget today, in “inflation adjusted dollars” (the only yard stick to use),compared to 1988. Down 30%? The same?
    –What is the “timber sale” budget, in inflation adjusted dollars, today Vs. then? How about “timber sale budget/timber sale volume, as in how many dollars to produce a thousand board feet.” And you might as well extend that to fire fighting, wildlife, recreation, ect.
    Oh, I realize that is very simplistic thinking…with different budgets going to timber sales. Which leads to another question…in preparing a timber sale…how much comes out of the “wildlife or fuels management budget” (Now MY eyes’ are glazing over)I’m sure I ask the impossible.
    –Here’s another impossible question…how much of “road maintenance” is, or used to be paid for by the timber sale purchaser. If any at all.I mean things like culvert replacement…but more importantly “Arterial FDR road blading.”

    Pondering the impossible.

  3. By the end she talks herself off the cliff. The balloon over her head says … “Oh yeah, multiple use! Nevermind I was just parroting the timber industry for a minute.”

    Sadly, she may be the chair of the committee someday and the timber industry will own her party and her committee.

  4. Fact Check Time….

    I’d just like to point out that Sen Murkowski very clearly stated:

    “But we’re [US Forest Service] not cutting any trees anymore and we’re not seeing those timber related jobs….”

    Apparently, “not cutting any trees anymore” is how a US Senator characterizes the fact that the timber industry logged 2.64 billion board feet of timber in 2012 off our National Forests.

    If you want a visual for what this supposed “not cutting any trees anymore” looks like, that 2.64 billion board feet of timber cut on national forests would require 528,000 log trucks to carry it all and those full log trucks would be lined up for 4,525 miles (which is much greater than the distance driving the Interstate from Seattle to New York and then turning south and traveling all the way to Miami).

    Yep, that’s pretty much exactly what “not cutting any trees anymore” looks like Senator. Geez…sure am glad an enviro didn’t make that statement, as I’m sure some commenters would have taken extreme exception.

  5. Matt: I’m sure Senator Murkowski realizes that only 2.64 billion board feet were harvested from all USFS properties in 2012. This is only a small fraction of former harvest levels; of the amount of new, annual growth experienced by these same forests; of the volume of trees killed by wildfire, bugs, and wind during the same year. In other words, if she had slipped in the phrase “comparatively speaking” somewhere — which seems to me to be clearly inferred — your argument disappears.

    As for your “Gee Whiz” analogy, I really can’t envision 528,000 log trucks (or even 4,525 miles), and I don’t think you can, either. Those are just “big number” tricks trying to hide the fact that keeping harvest levels so artificially low on these lands is probably not sustainable in the long-term. Our nation is just not THAT rich that we can continue to waste billions of dollars of our own resources just to meet political targets. At some point, someone will just step in that can do a better job. Adaptive management in the real world.

  6. Gee whiz Bob, I’m sorry you can’t envision what 528,000 log trucks filled with national forest trees lined up for 4,525 miles looks like. But I would agree, it is a “big number.”

    Here’s a visual that might help. Follow the blue line from Seattle, down to San Diego, across the southern US and then up to New York City. That blue line is 4500 miles and if you drove it, you’d be passing over half a million log trucks filed with national forest trees cut down in just 2012 the entire way.


    • Thanks for the visual Matt. And remember – they did this in just one year, AND they did the same thing the year before that, and the year before that, and next year, and the year after that, and so on ….

      The carbon storage on federal lands is far less than it was and far less than its biophysical potential. Reciting the fraction of the forests annual growth that is harvested and removed means little until we have rebuilt carbon stores (and old growth ecosystems) on our public lands. And such antiquated notions of sustained yield fail to reflect the ecological importance of mortality processes and the need for accumulation of dead wood to build complex habitat structure.

  7. Matt, you have too much time on your hands!

    Since you do, let’s see a visual for how far the logs would spread, if put them end to end. (for grins, assume 30 logs/load and a 33′ log)

    • Thanks for being my time manager JZ, but putting that blue line across the map and posting it here (to assist some with a visual) took me in the neighborhood of 5 minutes.

  8. I didn’t say I couldn’t visualize a map, Matt. And I have a hard time with more than a few dozen or hundred trucks at a time — especially when they’re in a row.

    Here’s Murkowski directly addressing the proposed budget (without a 1/2 million imaginary log trucks in an arbitrary linear arrangement) in a minute’s time:

    Do you think she is being reasonable?

  9. Matt, How come I can’t get graphics into my posts? I’ve got some great ones that show that the F.S. is planning to cut about 5% of the gross annual growth. Would you please put together a graphic showing that the glass is not 95% empty but actually is a brimming 5% full and it’s really not time to order another drink. (When you do order, make mine a double.)

    • Mac and anyone.. all you need to do in WordPress is to make a “fake” blog… I have one that’s just my name.. do a post in it and upload media. It gives you all the html or whatever it is, you copy that and drop it into one of these comments.

  10. Or we could “visualize” how many log trucks it would take to supply what the U.S. uses in timber every year. That would be a line of trucks that would “be a blue line that would circle the globe 3 1/2 times.” Now, maybe someone can tell us how long the blue line would need to be to carry all the wood that died on national forests last year.

    Actually, I’m a BIG fan of visualization, but to comprehend the gluttunous consumption of the U.S. is incomprehensible.The one place where enviros have failed dismally is getting Americans to “reduce” their consumption of natural resources. Total failure. All you do is move the “supply” around a bit. Hybrids and “E-cars” made up only 3.3% of all cars and light trucks sold last year. Now, certainly more than 3.3% of the population would call themselves “environmentalists”? Recycling aluminum cans is the extent of most people’s sacrifice for the environment. Mendacity.

    Me? I can’t wait for every Chinese family to be able to buy a prius. I think it’s 1 car per 500 people now. We’d have to triple tar sands production to meet that demand. Now, don’t condemn the Chinese for wanting to live like you do now, unless you start living like they do now. If I was a climate alarmist…I think such a visualization would pound me down into a crushing depression from which no light escapes.

    • Building on that analogy … Do we respond to the gluttony by subsidizing the shoveling of ever more of our precious forest ecosystems in to the mouths of the gluttons, or do we seek higher and better uses of our public forests for clean water, wildlife, recreation and carbon storage, and thereby raise the price of wood incrementally and force the glutton to pay closer to the real costs of his destructive habits?

  11. We might get a chance to test your theory with the coming canadian timber famine…along with “eventually” higher housing starts….along with Chinese imports of timber. I hope you try and sell your “we can’t log it, but we can burn it instead” plan to the public then. If the public reaction to “high gas prices” is any indication, I’ve got a feeling, and just specualtion, that the reaction to higher lumber prices will coincide with more wildfires and thus more calls to thin the WUI,along with an increasing spotlight by hunters on the complete dearth of “early seral habitat (ie Elk) on USFS lands, I gots a feeling the USFS lands are gonna be looking like a ripe plum for the picking. Weyerhauser has been practicing “high yeild” forestry for the last 40 years…so I don’t think “industrial forestry” is gonna take up part of the 15% decline in U.S. supplies resulsting from the Canadian timber famine. The South is harvesting like 97% of what grows every year….pushin the Ol’ “sustained yield” envelope there…so I doubt there will be much relief from them.

    I gots a feeling your about to see how “green” the american public really is. But hey, I could be wrong,…if you want to make money in the stock market, BUY what I sell.

  12. I have worked for the FS for over 20 years, and in my personal opinion, the quality of the FS staff is as good as it ever has been. However, we not spend more time with civil rights, safety, and CYA than managing the woods. Don’t get me wrong. This stuff is important but when it becomes the focus, we have a problem. We have a problem. This is especially true when the senior executive service (big wigs) are evaluated (and receive bonuses) based on these criteria. Finally, the FS rewards being a “company man (errr.. person)”, so those who speak out about the loss of focus and balance are punished, while those who tag along are promoted up the ladder. So mediocre begets mediocre. A mediocre leadership with a flawed focus is a receipt for disaster regardless of the quality (excellent) of staff you have to support it.

  13. Neglecting our National Forests under the guise of implementing “restoration” is further proof enviros are still willing to misrepresent the facts. Our forests need restoration from neglect, from under harvesting, lack of forest management, lack of vision and lack of leadership. Retaining old growth is certainly wise from a habitat POV including other social and environmental considerations in that retention but using the “issue” as a means to block scientific and economic facts all across entire landscapes is not wise.

    Harvest beetle kill or loose it in the next fire. Fire good? Management bad? How stupid. Retain a % of dead forest for habitat component but don’t further misrepresent our National Forest system by lumping in forest loss due to urbanization (suburbanization??) with some archaic examples of old growth loss. Time to step in to the 21st century and look forward in a meaningful manner.

    Murkowski’s point in this instance is spot on. Ask any retiring Forest Service Silviculturalist in a former timber producing district. NEPA could work if there was the political will to actually manage our forests instead of trying move back to an era of old growth we will never see again. Forest Managers (the team) need the ability to manage beyond the greenies and the greed. If you’ve never done it then you don’t know.


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