Purdue: : ‘There will be balance’ in U.S. forest management

This op-ed is in the Idaho Statesman and probably elsewhere. Purdue writes that the USFS “must reorient its culture to embrace a generational approach to responsible forest management.” How that would change the agency’s operations he doesn’t say.

Ag secretary: ‘There will be balance’ in U.S. forest management


Today’s challenges for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are many, but the department is staffed by tens of thousands of dedicated civil servants who share a love of the land and for those who earn their livelihoods by providing the food, fiber and fuel needed at home and abroad. Key assets for this quality of life are this nation’s forests and grasslands.

Forests cover approximately one-third of the land in America. To manage this vast resource base, the Forest Service works with local governments and private entities to ensure the health and sustainability of our wood resources. As with any asset, however, those charged with that task must ensure that there is balance. Thus, it is time to review how the Forest Service is accomplishing its mission and to reassure the American people that there will be balance in how our forests are managed.

The ideal management of our public lands would be through shared stewardship, meaning federal agencies would communicate, collaborate and coordinate with state and local governments and with citizens on how best to manage our public lands. The Forest Service has fully embraced this approach. After all, who knows local conditions better than those who are involved at the local level? So, then, what will the Forest Service do in the future?

First, it must reorient its culture to embrace a generational approach to responsible forest management. Trees take decades to grow to maturity. We must think about how the forests will provide cleaner water and air, more biofuels and more useful products for consumers. If we do not take the long view, we will never be able to preserve delicate ecosystems or prosper from the thousands of jobs that our forests could provide. We must treat our forests so that we are not spending more on fighting fires than we are on making sure that our forests are healthy.

Second, the Forest Service will work to establish interagency cooperation to ensure that procedural and regulatory barriers can be diminished or eliminated. The USDA must have interaction with the departments of Interior and Energy and agencies such as the EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Corps of Engineers. Internally, we must find ways to make Good Neighbor Authority more than just a slogan so there is more flexibility to achieve true shared stewardship.

Third, the Forest Service must engage at the local level on every issue. Everyone must have a voice in the decision-making. At the end of the day, we must all remember that we must do what is in the best interest of the American people.

Finally, we must never lose sight of the fact that if we take care of the land, the land will take care of us. We have world-renowned scientists and researchers engaged at the USDA, and only the best science and data will inform our decisions.

This summer consider including a visit to the nearest national forest. These wonderful areas belong to the American people, and the Forest Service is on the job to keep these wonderful resources healthy and resilient for generations to come.

Sonny Perdue is the U.S. secretary of agriculture.


23 thoughts on “Purdue: : ‘There will be balance’ in U.S. forest management”

  1. Sort of tough to take a political appointee of Donald Trump at their word for much of anything, especially the notion that there supposedly “will be balance” in U.S. Forest Service management. I mean, Sonny recently told Congress that forests are on national forests are a “crop” that “ought to be harvested.”

    Anyway, also appearing in the Idaho Statesmen is this piece from Craig Gehrk, state director for The Wilderness Society.

    Idaho forests more than a ‘crop’ to be harvested

    “Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will be visiting the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise on Friday, giving him a great opportunity to broaden his perspective on the national forests he is charged with overseeing.

    Perdue recently told Congress that the trees of our national forests are “crops” that “ought to be harvested.” I hope the secretary takes the time to listen and learn how much more the national forests yield states like Idaho beyond their value for cutting.”

    Full piece at: http://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article153779389.html

    • “more than a ‘crop’ to be harvested”

      Indeed they are. Not only does a “crop” of timber have economic value, the act of harvesting may provide significant social and environmental values.

  2. See also:

    How Perdue’s power benefits his friends

    Sonny Perdue has long mixed personal and political business to benefit his friends and business associates — and he’s on track to do it again.


    Yet Perdue faced 13 complaints to the state ethics commission during his years as governor, two of which resulted in findings that he broke state ethics laws. In 2002, Perdue was caught funneling illegal amounts of money from his private businesses into his campaign account and, in 2005, Perdue was forced to pay a $1,900 fine for improper campaign contributions and failing to correctly report the use of his private plane for a campaign event, records show.

    But it wasn’t just Perdue himself who benefited. POLITICO’s analysis of Perdue’s appointments shows the extent to which he mixed his business and government dealings, often to the advantage of both sides.

    • Matthew

      What is different about Perdue Vs. the Clinton’s Vs. Obama Vs. ??? – They are all politicians with big egos and a lust for power? Remember “Who guards the guardians”? Power is an equal opportunity corrupter.

  3. “We must treat our forests so that we are not spending more on fighting fires than we are on making sure that our forests are healthy.”

    Does anyone have ANY idea how to do this without adding ‘disaster dollars’? Anyone? We saw this kind of talk during the GW Bush Administration.

  4. I always cringe when I see people talking about “balance” – it tells me that they are not up-to-date on ecological concepts. What we are really talking about is “tradeoffs” – there is no magic “balance”. And can anyone define for me what a “generational” approach is?

    • MofT- I cringe also, and it is still around in various environmental education things I’ve seen (the balance of nature and so on). But I think Perdue may have meant balance in the sense of NEPA section 101
      “to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.” He may be using “balance” between social and environmental goals. I like “productive harmony” because it’s more optimistic (synergy) as opposed to a winner/loser mentality (jobs or owls). But it probably sounds kind of mushy and lovery-dovey on today’s cynical ears…sigh.

      • Thanks for pointing out that aspect of “balance” – and “productive harmony” may be a better way to phrase things instead of “tradeoffs”. Even with social vs. environmental goals, balance is not a good fit to me – when the FS makes a NEPA decision, they are deciding the tradeoffs that will be made – not how to “balance” things. Sometimes the “balance” can be very lopsided! I can’t wait to see the words “productive harmony” (instead of “balance”) used in a NEPA decision notice….

  5. This reads to me as if Chief Tidwell or one of his career staff wrote it. Kind of surprised at how mild it is–basically, keep on doing what you’re doing, Forest Service.
    “ensure the health and sustainability of our wood resources…” Check
    “not spending more on fighting fires than we are on making sure that our forests are healthy.” Check
    “…make Good Neighbor Authority more than just a slogan.” Check
    “…scientists and researchers …” Check
    “consider including a visit to the nearest national forest….” Check
    Only thing missing is International Forestry. This editorial can mean anything to anyone.

    • Teri- I agree about the checklist and the missing IF. But perhaps there are only so many speechwriters to go around. Maybe this is speech “conservation and reuse.”

  6. How could anyone disagree with “balance?” (Yes, that was a joke.)

    The Zephyr article sets up what seems to be a grossly strawperson premise to start from: “And when most environmentalists start describing their dream scenarios for remaking the world, the first step always seems to be total collapse.” That’s not true in my experience, so I doubt she’s been talking to a representative sample. I think most of us just want balance (I’ll suggest between the present and the future), and will hope for the best from that.

    • It is not the collapse that preservationists want, necessarily (although some propose that we need “larger and more intense wildfires”). It is the ‘freedom’ of the landscape to collapse, without human involvement, that some people want. That is the core of the “Whatever Happens” mindset. That is what pre-Man landscapes ‘naturally’ do. However, we should not be looking too far backwards, mandating a return to previous states. We should be looking at sustainability, in the reality of a Man-dominated world, at least here in the US.

    • “…so I doubt she’s been talking to a representative sample.” Soooo, what about all those people who do favor the idea of “let it burn”, as a blanket policy? Such people don’t even qualify that opinion to particular situations. Would such people be called “environmentalists”? If not, where would you ‘place’ so many people who advocate free-range wildfires, as ‘natural’?

  7. Fiscal conservatives?

    I guess I’ve always assumed your comments about the “let it burn”/”whatever happens” army were hyperbole. If you really want to find out how “such people” see themselves you should find one and ask them directly (or maybe one has been quoted somewhere?). I’ve not run into many (any?) that say human communities should burn. It’s more that federal funds and ecosystems should not bear most of the burden of protecting them.

    • I am talking about those thousands of people who reply to articles about fire with just three words. “Let it burn”. I see those responses ALL THE TIME! As I said, they do not qualify their responses with situations. I guess you don’t look at Facebook or comments on newspapers’ websites, where the general public shows its ‘knowledge’. Again, turning $6000 lightning fires into $100,000,000 firestorms is not ‘cost-effective’ or ‘good for the land’.

      That being said, there are also plenty of ridiculous comments from the far right, as well.

      AND…… WHERE did I say anything “human communities should burn”. You’re making this shit up, Jon. Do you REALLY want me to document the ridiculous stuff I see on the Internet????????

      • Only if you are going to bring it into this forum as an asserted fact; then we should know what it’s based on. Knowing the source, I would give “let it burn” about as much literal attention as “lock her up.” It’s good to know that when you attribute those phrases to those thousands of people it doesn’t mean you think they would like to see communities burn.

        • “It’s good to know that when you attribute those phrases to those thousands of people it doesn’t mean you think they would like to see communities burn.”

          Actually, AGAIN, they do NOT spell out particular situations. It also doesn’t seem to matter which fires they apply their opinions to. For example, there were several examples of this in comments about the Blue Cut fire in the LA area. (Remember, there were thousands of evacuations in that fire)

          Maybe I need to make a posting where I continuously add new incidences of people wanting to let fires burn, adding to it, every time I run across these comments, just to ‘verify’ to people here that they do exist.

          • I would guess that many people say that in more urban areas around California, not so much in places like Missoula or Colorado Springs (if people use their real names) where real people are losing their homes, livestock, pets, livelihoods and possibly their lives. Of course, people will say any ridiculous thing when they don’t use their names.

            For me, I’m not as interested when individuals say this, (as you point out Larry, there are many silly and/or dangerous things said on the internet) as when interest groups or scientists say this- people who are, or try to be, closer to influencing policy. These it seems to me, might be worthy of keeping a list.

            • Hi Sharon. Good idea on keeping a list of interests groups or scientists who (supposedly) make the claims that Larry seems to claim they make. I suggest Larry keep that list, since it seems to be very important to him. It shouldn’t be too much work, as the list of interests groups or scientists who (supposedly) say the thinks Larry claims will be very, very short.


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