National forests in the presidential campaign

I found two articles in my newsfeed this morning from sources I have rarely or never heard from, and on both sides of the political canyon.  Both are related to the respective campaigns.

People for the American Way used a Forest Service case to make their point about the risk of more conservative judges being nominated by a Republican administration.  Here’s the headline: “Trump Judge Tries to Permit Forest Service to Proceed with Commercial Logging of Trees Without Assessing Environmental Impact: Confirmed Judges Confirmed Fears.”  They provide a reasonable summary of EPIC v. Carlson (which we reported here), but attack the dissent written by the Trump appointee, saying, “If it had been up to Trump judge Lee, however, that would not be the case, risking significant environmental injury.”

I’m not sure there is anything particularly unusual about this case – traditionally conservative judges seem to be more willing to defer to agency expertise (though Trump refers to agency expertise as “the swamp”).  I do think it is unusual for a national forest lawsuit to be dragged into a presidential campaign.

Then there was the logger who spoke at the Republican National Convention, and was featured in Breitbart.

“Under Obama-Biden, radical environmentalists were allowed to kill the forests,” Dane said.

“Under President Trump, we’ve seen a new recognition of the value of forest management in reducing wildfires,” Dane said. “And we’ve seen new support for our way of life—where a strong back and a strong work ethic can build a strong middle class.”

“We want to build families where we’re raised and stand by communities that have stood by us,” Dane said. “We want that way of life available for the next generation, and we want our forests there too.”

The debates about the “value of forest management in reducing wildfires” of course haven’t been settled.  But I’m more interested here in the idea that it should be the role of government to perpetuate anyone’s industry, job, hometown or “way of life,” logging in particular.  (I always thought Republicans wanted to limit the role of government.)

11 thoughts on “National forests in the presidential campaign”

  1. Thanks for posting this Jon.

    The extremely partisan speech at the Republican National Convention by Scott Dane, the executive director of the Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota, which was filled with total non-sense from tip-to-tail, is ripe for fact-checking. Maybe someone here will take that on.

  2. One can’t exactly eliminate government involvement when it comes to activities on federal lands (short of privatizing those lands of course). Whether the government says yes or no, it’s still going to be the government making the decision. When it comes to industries that rely on resource extraction from federal lands, they are naturally reliant on the government’s permission for their continued existence.

    Whether you believe logging is good or bad, I see no contradiction in that statement with the value of limited government. It is entirely consistent with the idea of the government getting out of the way of private industry and allowing the market to work.

  3. Wouldn’t government perpetuating “anyone’s industry, job, hometown, or ‘way of life'” fall under socialism rather than capitalism? If government were not to step in, would these industries, jobs, hometowns, or ways of life continue to persist? But, since environmental values are being woven into the conversation, we are seeing an immediate distinction of perspectives – those who want to protect the environment and those who want to use resources for a livelihood.

    I am having this exact conversation with my brother who is in the dairy industry. Dairy farmers want competition to succeed, but when they cannot compete, they want government assistance. My take is that the field of competition is not level (think imports from countries that operate less expensively (but more environmentally damaging?)), so farmers (and loggers) cannot compete and thus, need government assistance.

    As for what Republicans want, I am not sure any of us can articulate that these days.

    • Being allowed extract resources from federal lands isn’t “government assistance”. It’s just government permission to engage in the central activity of their industry. They aren’t asking for subsidies from the government that I know of, just for the government not to ban their entire industry.

      Think of it terms of literally any other industry. If your industry is making shoes, is asking the government not to ban the act making shoes asking for “government assistance”? If not, why is an industry based on harvesting trees asking for government assistance when it asks the government to allow it to harvest trees? Yes those trees are on federal lands, but if that is where most of the forests are, then that’s where they need to harvest them.

      Basically your argument is that any industry that is allowed to do anything to make money on federal lands is receiving a socialized government handout, which is a rather strange argument to make.

    • Great comment about who knows how to decipher what the Republicans want! Thanks for giving me an afternoon laugh

      Politics certainly come into the mix when we’re talkin about Federal land management and so does the fact that most people, including myself, are inconsistent. It’s been awhile since I looked but when I was in grad school the social science literature showed a frequent disconnect between people’s attitudes and their behavior.
      That may be part of what we see when someone advocates for small government and free markets but then wants a bailout when the Mississippi River floods the property they purchased in a free market environment!
      I’ve never liked the expectation some folks seem to have that our public forests owe them a living; I saw that when I worked for the USFS in small logging towns. Of course, as a society we are inconsistent when it comes to helping some people stay in business why we let others fail. That point really came home to me, about 25 years ago, while I was teaching an Elderhostel class about old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest; one of the students was old enough to have had a father who was a blacksmith. He lost his horseshoeing business when Henry Ford’s cars changed the way Americans traveled. I wonder if anybody tried to make sure the blacksmiths stayed in business then?

  4. Patrick – you make good points; I found my head nodding as Inread them. You also made me realize that I was not as precise with my comments as I wished. I was interpreting Mr. Dane’s comments broader than just timber removed from national forests. The timber industry relies heavily on non-federal timber for their mill’s supply, so I had that in mind when making my comments.

  5. Jon many traditional Republicans have found a lot more in common with the corporatist Biden than with Trump, every day I read of a new group of former Bush/Romney/Other functionaries declaring their support. Besides, Republicans have never been free market types, more pro profiteers. I’m sure you know a lot better than me, what percentage of forest fire fighters/controlled burn workers/and all the other contracts put out by the USFS hire contract workers from Mexico and even illegal workers via labor brokers.

    When I read someone at the Rep Convention say,

    “And we’ve seen new support for our way of life—where a strong back and a strong work ethic can build a strong middle class.”

    “We want to build families where we’re raised and stand by communities that have stood by us,” Dane said. “We want that way of life available for the next generation, and we want our forests there too.”

    I understand they are advocating for jobs and forests at the same time. It’s populism, not conservatism. This message is very appealing to half the country, the Chamber of Commerce and Cato not so much, but then that’s populism.

  6. Interesting responses to my “jab” – thanks. I wondered if somebody would bring up “buggy-whips,” and we actually got a personal story about it. I actually agree that public lands are inherently socialism. It’s the tone of entitlement that triggered my comments. That the government should make sure you can stay where you grew up and have the job that you want. That is not reality for most Americans. And I don’t think that decisions about who gets federal natural resource assets to accomplish that is any different as “government assistance” than handing out money. I do think there is a difference between providing timber (of which there is a large private supply) and providing natural areas (of which there is not), and so any government bias should be towards the latter.

    • Personally, I don’t get the tone of entitlement..
      “We want to build families where we’re raised and stand by communities that have stood by us,” Dane said. “We want that way of life available for the next generation, and we want our forests there too.”

      It’s couched as “we want”. Many towns I’ve lived in have seen their property values increase so much their kids can’t afford to live there. I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to have families be able to stay in the same community. What am I missing?


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