Let’s Just Transfer FS Land to the Park Service: Why or Why Not?

Gil asked a really good question, in my mind, one that is another way of asking what are our public lands for? But a bit more concrete.

Here’s his question. I’m hoping regulars on the blog will answer as well as perhaps some newbies.

The National Park Service (NPS) approach seems to be what the Forest Ecology Scientists and a lot of environmentalists want.

So, my question to all is: how many people in the NCFP group would think that things would be better off if all USFS lands and budget monies (less any economies of scale savings) were transferred to the NPS along with any resources that the NPS requested?

If you don’t choose the transfer, then please tell us what advantages you see for some federal lands being managed by the USFS over NPS management.

As far as I am concerned, with things the way that they are now, I see no reason not to turn all management over to the NPS. It would get the stigma of the USFS being logger friendly off of the table and maybe give the environmental groups a degree of collaborative confidence that is missing to a large degree with the USFS.

Let’s begin this discussion by assuming that there would be no obligation to log any lands.

10 thoughts on “Let’s Just Transfer FS Land to the Park Service: Why or Why Not?”

  1. Char

    Great article

    For the sake of discussion here, we are assuming no joint borders since there would only be a NPS. So there would not be any funding entanglements.

    We are also assuming that whatever budgets they would have gotten separately the surviving NPS would get all of that less some small and insignificant amount for reduction of administrative overhead.

    Now, what is your answer to the questions posed in the opening post?

  2. This is the best I’ve seen on the budget angle.. thanks!

    Yes, you may help any way you want…

    I’ve gotta say, though, at the risk of ticking off my FS buds, when I go to a certain national park compared to a nearby concessionaire-run FS place, there seems to be a great deal more bucks hitting the ground.

    So does that have to do with the fees? Or the budget structure? or the expensive things they don’t have to do (NEPA for O&G, ski area and timber, range, and special use administration ). In the areas that are “Park quality” I wonder if they should just be given over, so that fees can be charged and go to employees and not concessionaires. Certainly the fees must be sizeable (?).

    but parks don’t have oil and gas, ski areas, grazing, hunting (ATV’s except one in Alaska), timber, firewood, or dogs allowed (one I went to didn’t even allow them in cars!), all of which have folks involved who would raise a ruckus.

    Like I said, though, there are many Park-like places near urban and quasi- urban areas, and except for the dog thing, they might as well be Parks, so folks can pay for what they get, and the money goes to the Feds.

  3. Alston Chase had a few observations about the US National Park Service in “Playing God in Yellowstone” (1987) and shared some observations about the USDA Forest Service in his book “In a Dark Wood” (2001). Much of the problem is the American approach to husbanding the living land. Canada shares that legacy. Husbanding the land is infinitely more complicated than can be imagined. Human institutions are continually humbled by how little is known about the consequences of using the living land. Often even less of that collective knowledge is applied in that use when it is not embedded in a rule-book.

    Sharing the viewpoint from more than 40 years of study and work with public lands in three regions of the US and both coasts of Canada, there is no one institutional arrangement or policy instrument that can solve the consequences human-land relationships. Continually ignoring consequences like the regional impacts of climate change and reverting to a “naturalistic” approach or “letting nature take its course” is about as effective as an ostrich avoiding the predator by sticking its head in a hole in the ground. Would it not be better for North Americans to use the collective strengths of organizations like the US Forest Service and the National Park Service to create a vision for husbanding the living land?

      • Hi Sharon,

        In the SEPTEMBRE/OCTOBRE 2007, VOL. 83, No 5 — THE FORESTRY CHRONICLE in “A continental forest policy for North America?” methods for getting alternatives for those visions are described.. There probably is not one vision for North America, if for no other reasons the different forms of federalism between Mexico, USA, and Canada but there should be a better institutional arrangement for resolving forest issues than the courts.

  4. William

    “Would it not be better for North Americans to use the collective strengths of organizations like the US Forest Service and the National Park Service to create a vision for husbanding the living land?”

    —> How do you get past “Husbanding” = “Logging” = “Business Plundering for a buck no matter the consequences” = “mankind” = “evil” in the mind of most environmental groups? To most of them, mankind is so evil that husbanding is anathema which brings on immediate and uncontrolled revulsion unless you hand over the bucks and all authority to them (the few, the proud, the strong and above all else, the infinitely pure and wise).

    The idea that I think you are conveying is the same as mine. Mankind is a part of nature and has a role to play to husband the resources of this world. Nature will adapt to mankind as long as mankind listens to nature and accommodates it when it matters. The problem is that environmental groups think that everything matters and everything matters significantly and hence we end up with analysis paralysis because every ant matters and we dare not step on one. What they don’t seem to understand is that sound forest management and the logging that goes with it sets up a pattern that provides for the dynamics of nature at a scale that nature can easily adapt to. It doesn’t have to be applied to all forest acres. Significant acreages identified as key environmental concerns can be treated however the ologists want. But we have more diversity and better adaptability to climate change with both approaches existing side by side rather than putting all of our eggs in one basket of old growth or nature only or let random chance rule. Mankind will survive longer over the eons if he is an intelligent participant rather than the bystander that some seem to want us to be.

    • Gil’

      Did you read Daniel Botkin’s “Commentary, What forestry needs in the anthropocene.”? in the Source, September 2013. He made some excellent points including the “dominance of the balance of nature…”, the great change in ownership of forest lands, and the decline of forest research and its funding. While we in Canada have not shared the great change in ownership, the other two factors apply.

      By the way Gil, I tend to almost always agree with what you are saying. While a very good beginning, I think that the collective strengths of the two agencies are not enough.

      Botkin is giving a talk on forestry need in this new era September 17 at a Pinchot Institute Conference, I hope his talk is posted on-line.

      Keep up the good work.


  5. Mine is a comment not on the topic but most definitely to the point.

    National Forest System land is not “Forest Service land.”

    With very few exceptions (e.g., non-national forest land acquired by the Forest Service for use as administrative sites, communications sites, etc.), and despite what some officials, some inarticulate agency personnel, many real estate salesmen (trying to sell property that “backs up to Forest Service land” so potential buyers will perceive an unwarranted guarantee of privacy and serenity as part of the deal), and much of the general public say, there’s no such thing as “Forest Service land.”

    It’s “national forest land” that belongs to the people of the United States–the citizen-owners of the National Forest System–and is administered for them by the Forest Service as prescribed by law, not “Forest Service land.”

    A small point? A nitpick? Not at all!

    It’s an all-important distinction that informs–or should inform–the perceptions (and thus the operational realities) of the politicians, the public servants, and the publics they serve of their respective roles, responsibilities, and prerogatives vis-à-vis the national forests and each other.

  6. Les

    I don’t see how anyone could disagree with your statement but doesn’t that also hold true for the Capital Building, The White House, and any other federal asset?

    I don’t see it as nitpicking. I see it as stating the obvious.


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