Out with the new and in with the old



Here’s some well-known quotes from former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth in 2003. He was trying to sell the idea that the agency was no longer timber-first. This was the “new” Forest Service; “caring for the land” comes first.

Twenty years ago, we focused primarily on outputs, measured in terms of board feet; today, we focus primarily on outcomes, measured in terms of healthy ecosystems.

So our mission focus has shifted away from past levels of timber production.

This concept was embedded in the 2012 Planning Rule, with desired landscape conditions being the basis for vegetation management projects. From the Preamble:

“However, land management planning today focuses on managing toward desired conditions, or outcomes, rather than focusing simply on outputs.”

Today it looks like we have the new “new” Forest Service.  At least on the Olympic National Forest:

Members of the collaborative and non-voting members from the Olympic National Forest, Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) and several other entities said Tuesday that the common goal is to increase timber harvest and aid the local economy while also protecting the forests.

Reta Laford, Olympic National Forest supervisor said her agency’s current emphasis within the restoration framework will treat more acres and increase volume using congressional appropriations as well as timber sales that retain the funds created to use for North Olympic Peninsula projects.

Paul Bialkowsky, timber manager for Olympic Peninsula Operations for Interfor and a collaborative member, said the group is working for a shared goal among industry, government, and environmentalists to increase timber harvest while maintaining forest and watershed quality.

The only person to say anything about ecosystems was the meeting facilitator. And there was no mention of desired conditions. It looks like the agency may be returning to its roots (or stumps).  Also that potential collaborators who don’t share this new/old goal may have a reason to be not be much interested in collaborating.

3 thoughts on “Out with the new and in with the old”

  1. I am very pleased to know that Reta Laford is the Olympic Supervisor! I think that there is a difference between “timber regardless of environment”, “timber considering environmental concerns in design” and “opportunities for restoration that involve timber practices such as thinning, etc.” I guess I’d have to see a silvicultural prescription. understand the history of the area, and see the EA to know whether I think that this is substantively different than what Chief Robertson said.

  2. Totally agree, Jon. As a collaborator (and litigator!), there’s not much to like in the new new/old Forest Service, particularly because this Administration appears to be walking away from hard-won partnerships in favor of “allowing the states to lead” on federal forest management.

    On one hand, that may be a smart “small p” political decision on the part of the current Forest Service leadership: they are definitely in survival mode (and who wouldn’t be, looking at what’s happening at Interior or EPA).

    On the other hand, and in my experience, the agency is casting aside more durable partnerships with other stakeholders, and breaking promises in the process. Why should those stakeholders keep coming back to the table to “help” the Forest Service?

    This kind of whipsaw policy is why, in my view, the agency is suffering from a critical lack of credibility and respect. Which is too bad, because I fear it may permanently tarnish the agency and its legacy, if not its continued viability and future.

  3. The purpose of the Northwest Forest Plan was two-fold (from a very large scale perspective): Sustain communities and sustain ecosystems – the projected timber harvest levels from the NW Forest Plan have never been reached, and the timber industry infrastructure has decreased (not only mills, but loggers, logging equipment, log truck drivers, etc.) in the Pacific Northwest. Why weren’t those harvest levels reached? For one thing, the type of harvest shifted from even-aged regeneration harvest to thinning, even in “general forest”/matrix land allocations. And even as industry encourages salvage after fires in recent years, they do not have the capacity to log all of the offered salvage. So, perhaps one way to look at this is a desire to achieve the promises made in the NW Forest Plan, not abandoning one management emphasis for another one…


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