193+: Evolution of the Forest Service by Al Sample


Al Sample is our fifth author in our series of posts summarizing, riffing on, and updating their essays from the Steve Wilent-edited book 193 Million Acres (hence the category 193+).  This is the first of four posts by Sample.  We are unique in history so far at this time, as those who experienced history can comment on their perceptions of it online to a broad audience. So please relate your own experiences and views of history,  from inside or outside the Forest Service, during these periods in the comments.


While nominally there has been little change in the US Forest Service’s basic mission to promote the conservation and sustainable management of America’s forests, there have been four distinct periods in its history, each with different policy drivers.  For its first 75 years, forest management decision making was determined almost entirely through administrative policy, guided in only the broadest sense by a few very general statutes, such as the Organic Act of 1897.  Additional legislation was enacted largely with the assent of the Forest Service or at the agency’s direct request (Robinson 2011).  The National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) marked a turning point to the next era, a period in which resource management decisions in the US Forest Service and at other federal land management agencies were guided by agency-specific statutes that placed unprecedented limits on administrative discretion.  Although other federal land management agencies were affected by their own reform legislation, the US Forest Service experienced the most difficult transition, largely because its organizational value system was so deeply ingrained and so widely internalized throughout the agency (Tipple and Wellman 1991).  An independent spirit and a resistance to the varying political winds were regarded internally as a sign of professional integrity, and were a source of great pride.  But they also made the Forest Service inflexible in the face of advancing ecological science and changing public values and made the change, when it came, that much more disruptive.

In the third period, following the breakdown of the NFMA compromise between the forest industry and environmental interests, land management was determined largely by case law, initially based on NFMA and NEPA and ultimately on the Endangered Species Act.  The broad habitat protection mandate under NFMA and ESA in Judge William Dwyer’s decision in Seattle Audubon v. Evans (No. C89-169WD, W.D. Wash. 1991) did not do away with the Forest Service’s traditional multiple-use management framework, but it made clear that should the two come into conflict with one another, the habitat protection mandate must take precedence.  In a subsequent decision turning back both environmental and forest industry legal challenges to the Northwest Forest Plan, Judge Dwyer noted further that there was little chance of federal land management agencies complying with NEPA and ESA without planning on an ecosystem basis (Seattle Audubon v. Lyons, 871 F. Supp. 1291, W.D. Wash. 1994).

The core strength of the US Forest Service organization was again sorely tested.  Traditional multiple-use management had long been focused on accomplishing Congressional timber sale targets and fitting habitat protection and other resource management activities around that central goal.  Many scientists both within and outside the Forest Service also interpreted ESA and NFMA as requiring a primary focus on habitat protection, with commodity production targets adjusted accordingly.  The result was deep internal strife within the Forest Service, between those focused on traditional resource production responsibilities, and the increasing number of “ologists” hired to help the agency comply with NEPA, NFMA, and ESA.

Ultimately the stage was set for the fourth and present period, in which ecosystem management and restoration is the central policy guiding federal land management, and is characterized by large-scale ecoregional planning efforts and by collaborative management processes that are interagency as well as public-private (Skillen 2015).  It turns out that the emphasis on experimentation, feedback, and adjustment has become critically important to the Forest Service’s response to the now accelerating rate of environmental, economic, demographic, and cultural change, in the US itself and in the global context (Millar et al. 2007).  Not least among these are the effects of climate change—no longer a vague possibility sometime in the future, but now widely recognized as a key driver behind recent changes in the size and severity of wildfires, outbreaks of insects and pathogens, the spread of invasive species, water scarcity impacts on aquatic habitat as well as water supplies, extensive tree mortality from prolonged drought, heat, and severe storms (Millar and Stephenson 2015, Allen et al. 2010), and a gradual conversion of vast forested regions of the nation to savannas and other non-forest ecotypes (Allen 2016).

In relative terms, the challenges of adapting forest management to the effects of climate change have come upon the Forest Service quickly, and its experience with ecosystem management is critically important in addressing these new challenges (Halofsky et al. 2015).  The agency’s scientists and land managers have had nearly three decades to work out how to do adaptive management at multiple scales simultaneously—not just in terms of ecological science, but also in terms of collaborative social and political processes that will be essential to ecoregional climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning (Swanston et al. 2016, Halofsky et al. 2016, Sample and Topik 2016, Sample et al. 2013, Peterson et al. 2011).



Allen, C.D., 2016. Forest ecosystem reorganization underway in southwestern United States: A preview of widespread forest changes in the Anthropocene? In: Sample, V.A., Bixler, R.P., and Miller, C. (eds.), 2016.  Forest Conservation in the Anthropocene: Science, Policy, and Practice. University Press of Colorado.

Allen, C.D., Macalady, A.K., Chenchouni, H., Bachelet, D., McDowell, N., Vennetier, M., Kitzberger, T., Rigling, A., Breshears, D.D., Hogg, E.T. and Gonzalez, P., 2010. A global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests. Forest ecology and management259(4), pp.660-684.

Halofsky, J.E., Peterson, D. and Marcinkowski, K.W., 2015. Climate change adaptation in United States federal natural resource science and management agencies: A synthesis. US Global Change Research Program, Climate Change Adaptation Interagency Working Group.  http://www.globalchange.gov/browse/reports/climate-change-adaptation-united-states-federal-natural-resource-science-and

Halofsky, J., Peterson, D., Metlen, K., Myer, M.G., and Sample, V.A. 2016. Developing and Implementing Climate Change Adaptation Option in Forest Ecosystems: A Case Study in Southwestern Oregon, USA. Forests 7(268); http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/f110268

Millar, C.I., Stephenson, N.L. and Stephens, S.L., 2007. Climate change and forests of the future: managing in the face of uncertainty. Ecological Applications17(8), pp.2145-2151.

Millar, C.I. and Stephenson, N.L., 2015. Temperate forest health in an era of emerging megadisturbance. Science349(6250), pp.823-826.

Peterson, D.L., Millar, C.I., Joyce, L.A., Furniss, M.J., Halofsky, J.E., Neilson, R.P. and Morelli, T.L., 2011. Responding to climate change in national forests: a guidebook for developing adaptation options. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-855. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Robinson, G.O., 2011. The Forest Service: A study in public land management. Resources for the Future, First published in 1975 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sample, V.A. and Topik, C., 2016.  Forest Conservation in the Anthropocene. In: Sample, V.A., Bixler, R.P., and Miller, C. (eds.), 2016.  Forest Conservation in the Anthropocene: Science, Policy, and Practice. University Press of Colorado.

Sample, V.A., Halofsky, J.E., and Peterson, D.L. 2013.  US Strategy for Forest Management Adaptation to Climate Change: Building a Framework for Decision Making.  Annals of Forest Science (DOI: 10.1007/s13595-013-0288-6).

Skillen, J.R., 2015. Federal Ecosystem Management: Its Rise, Fall, and Afterlife. University Press of Kansas.

Swanston, C., Janowiak, M.K., Brandt, L.A., Butler, P.R., Handler, S.D., Shannon, P.D., Lewis, A.D., Hall, K., Fahey, R.T., Scott, L. and Kerber, A., 2016. Forest adaptation resources: climate change tools and approaches for land managers. Second edition. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-87-2. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station.

Tipple, T.J. and Wellman, J.D., 1991. Herbert Kaufman’s forest ranger thirty years later: From simplicity and homogeneity to complexity and diversity. Public Administration Review, pp.421-428.


Al Sample is Adjunct Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources.  His latest book, with R. Patrick Bixler and Char Miller, is Forest Conservation in the Anthropocene: Science, Policy, and Practice (University Press of Colorado).

193+: “Revisions which a minute will reverse”: Rethinking the Forest Service in Time by Char Miller

193 Million Acres: Toward a Healthier and More Resilient Forest Service covers a lot of territory. Taken most literally, the title refers to the lands that the US Forest Service stewards across the United States. But it also evokes the reciprocal dynamic of that stewardship: the different ecosystems—forest, grassland, and wilderness, to name a few—have had a profound impact on the federal agency’s actions; it is also true that the Forest Service, by its policy decisions, budgetary outlays, and managerial schemes have altered conditions on the ground. This feedback loop is of prime importance.

It is vital for another reason. Whether read individually and/or collectively, the contributions to 193 Million Acres reveal alterations in how researchers have analyzed the interplay between the agency and the public lands over the years, a process of rethinking and revising which stretches back to the establishment of the Forest Service in 1905.

The probing the significance of these revisions—historical, scientific, political—form the crux of my chapter in the anthology, “Future Imperfect: The Forest Service and Federal Land Management in a Climate-Charged Environment.” The title and text are self-consciously framed in the concise, three-word description of the historian’s narrative strategy—change over time. And what better way to illustrate some of these historic forces than by starting in the present? A present in which a warming planet is rearranging ecological relationships and thereby disrupting the capacity of the Forest Service, among other institutions, to manage as they once did.

Here’s the set up:

How will the agency steward its 193 million acres of forests and grasslands as the climate and landscapes shift in relation to one another? The Forest Service and its agency peers “know enough now to begin taking decisive action at the local, state, regional, and federal level to implement adaption strategies on public and private forest lands” (Malmsheimer et al. 2008). That said, these agencies have encountered “bottlenecks,” based not so much on the “limitations of our science as on limitations in the policies and existing institutional framework within which forestry is practiced” (Sample, Bixler, and Miller 2016).

These confounding situations have arrived at a fascinating moment in the agency’s history. Founded in 1905, in the immediate aftermath of its centennial celebrations the Forest Service found itself with a golden opportunity to (re)consider whether its prior commitments would allow it to celebrate its bicentennial. That may seem an odd statement. After all, the Forest Service has managed to weather serious challenges in the past, a legacy suggesting it might prove as nimble when confronted with future trials, however unpredictable those posed by global warming may be. Would the agency’s history offer a useful guide to a future layered with the dilemmas a warmer Earth currently is producing? However traumatic climate change is already proving to be, however disruptive its impact on the agency’s previous patterns of behavior and action, analyzing the agency’s past still may provide insight into its future. How will its leaders, line officers, rangers, and staff face the daily complexities posed by an integrated series of forces that may overwhelm their capacity to manage landscapes? How will they respond to the welter of opportunities and challenges that already have emerged and will arise? These are not just policy questions; they also have a historical dimension, for as Richard Neustadt and Ernest May (1986) observe in Thinking in Time: “[S]eeing the past can help one envision alternative futures.”

The bulk of the chapter then explored three possible paths that could redefine the Forest Service’s structure and mission.

Scenario One: Evolutionary Dynamics

The Forest Service has evolved in relation to the lands that it manages, establishing a dynamic interaction between the environment and the professional conservationists who seek to steward it, which confirms a broader claim: “History has repeatedly demonstrated that the health and welfare of human societies are fundamentally dependent on the health and welfare of their forests” (Thompson 2008). This reciprocity, in its particularity and broad sweep, may prove the key to the agency’s long-term survival. Because over time it has had to adapt to shifts in political temper, scientific knowledge, and social concern, its legacy of resilience also may define its 21st-century behavior in an era of climate change, enabling it to morph as required while retaining its core responsibilities and organizational structure.

Scenario Two: Devolutionary Progress

Yet what happens when the rate of change is so rapid and/or radical that organisms emerge as something else altogether? Indeed, a proposed alteration that the Forest Service has faced—and to date has fended off—is the devolution of its lands and authority to the individual states in which its forests, wildernesses, and grasslands are located. Those who have argued for this outcome have drawn on a powerful strain in American political thought, starting with the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.” In attempting to define the precise relationship between federal and state sovereignty, a central issue in the United States since the 18th century, the amendment makes clear that this relationship is in tension. The Forest Service knows this full well, for the agency long has been a flashpoint in the heated political debate between states’ rights and national prerogatives. What followed was a comparative analysis of how and why the national forest-management agencies in Canada and New Zealand—which initially replicated the US model that Gifford Pinchot and his successors had developed—lost their managerial authorities and foci. Were their experiences suggestive of what might lie in store for the US Forest Service in the 21st century? (Hint: I don’t think so).

Scenario Three: Revolutionary Impulse

Would the creation of a new Department of Conservation in the executive branch be more likely? With a seat in the cabinet, this department might house the nation’s most important land management agencies—the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Geological Survey, National Resources Conservation Service, and National Park Service, among other entities. By creating economies of scale and greater efficiencies of action, this new department could save money and serve as a standard-bearer for the modern environmental movement. That said, this approach flies in the face of contemporary environmentalism, which stresses local agency over national solutions, and would upset those restive elements of the sagebrush opposition for whom increased federal authority is an anathema. Yet an unreflective dismissal of this possibility may lead conservationists to miss a chance to restructure federal land-management institutions and their delivery of environmental services. It may turn out that the most effective way to secure much-desired bottom-up reform is through simultaneous top-down change, which is particularly pressing in this climate-shifting era.

I knew enough to know that by themselves—and even in combination—these three scenarios are more evocative than prescriptive. My goal, after all, was to suggest ways by which institutional change might occur, despite knowing that so many unforeseen contingencies and unknown conflicts could arise to redirect the Forest Service’s future and thus the later narrating of its history. This is precisely what makes my job so much fun: The past and present, like writing itself, is in a constant state of revision.

Char Miller is the W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis and History at Pomona College. His new book, Natural Consequences: Intimate Essays for a Planet in Peril will be published in September. He is also the author of America’s Great National Forests, Wildernesses, and Grasslands and the award-winning Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism, among others.


193+: Millennial Employees and Rural Places: A Millennial’s Thoughts About Increasing Forest Service Recruitment and Retention in Rural Places by Don Radcliffe

Don Radcliffe

This is the third  in our series of posts by the original authors summarizing, riffing on, and updating essays from the Steve Wilent-edited book 193 Million Acres.

The original title of the essay was Millennial Employees and Rural Places: A Millennial Forester’s Thoughts about Increasing Young Employee Recruitment and Retention in the National Forest System.  Information on the author, Don Radcliffe, can be found at the end of the post.

My essay for 193 Million Acres explored issues the Forest Service had with recruiting and retaining talented young employees, specifically within the national forest system. I was 26 and it was 2017 when I wrote it; I had worked for the Forest Service as a seasonal silviculture technician in a small western town in 2014 and 2015, then worked in construction with my family and did a forest policy internship with the Society of American Foresters, before going to graduate school for forestry and forest ecology. So the essay was based on personal experience, along with a bit of literature review. Working with my family’s general contracting business showed me that companies which treated their employees well usually had the best reputations for quality work, and greater longevity. My opinion was that the Forest Service was a decent place to work as a young person, but that it had a lot of room for improvement. When the opportunity arose to write for 193 Million Acres, I thought up seven recommendations for improvement in recruitment and retention of talented young employees in the Forest Service, which I’ll list out below.

But before listing out recommendations, I explored a couple important areas of background context: rural demographic patterns and attitudes of Millennials towards the workplace. The gist of the rural demographic section was that most rural spaces are becoming lonely places for people in their twenties. However, there are a few rural recreation destinations that tend to concentrate more young people, tending to focus around areas of natural beauty. These destinations have much turnover due to high housing prices in combination with unstable and low wage seasonal work. The gist of the Millennial attitudes section was that many of us Millennials want to make a positive impact in our work, seek consistent growth in our work, and we seek work-life balance. More so than past generations, we will change jobs and/or careers if these needs aren’t met. Often these characteristics are framed negatively, but I see them as an economic and survival imperative. We grew up in uncertain times with great changes in job markets and rising cost of living, and we grew up being taught about a wide variety of existential threats. If we aren’t constantly learning new skills, we risk being left behind by automation and/or political restructuring. If we aren’t making a positive impact in our work, we may not leave much of a world for our future children.

With this background of rural demographic patterns and millennial attitudes towards the workplace in mind, I listed seven recommendations to improve recruitment and retention of talented
young workers in the Forest Service. The recommendations mostly touch on issues that are much broader than the narrow context of this blog post, and I’m keeping them very brief here. And all these issues are also explored in some of the other essays in 193 Million Acres, to different degrees and with different focuses. Briefly, my recommendations were:

Recommendation 1: Diversify the work and provide more mentorship. Many 1039 seasonal employees have relatively monotonous experiences in a season with the Forest Service, and some have a greater variety of experiences. I think efforts to expand the breadth of a young seasonal’s experience is likely to increase their interest in the overall work of the Forest Service, and improve the chance they will return for a second season and beyond. Forests should place more emphasis on mentorship, which is a major factor by which millennials judge the quality of their job.
Personally, I got lucky in my seasonal position and was able to learn from working in a variety of tasks, and that was a major factor in deciding to return to the same job for a second season.

Recommendation 2: Promote on merit
Anyone reading this essay has probably at least heard stories about bad promotions and deadweight employees in government agencies. I don’t have the management experience in the Forest Service to really understand how problematic deadweight employees are or aren’t, and I’m not as sure that it’s a real problem as I used to be, as I’ve interacted with many very helpful Forest Service employees on several national forests both when I’ve been an employee and a grad student. But when I was a seasonal there was a narrative that being a good employee didn’t help you get promoted in the Forest Service, and that being a bad employee could get you promoted because it was the only way a boss could ‘get rid of you.’ Clearly that kind of narrative is going to be deterring to ambitious and talented young employees, and I think efforts to give promotions to those who deserve them will be motivating to talented young employees of the Forest Service.

Recommendation 3: Pay people what they’re worth
I’ve often seen pay raises being held back at the Forest Service. For example, a person with a college degree is supposed to make a GS-5 wage, but most people I know have been hired out of college at a GS-4 and kept there for one, two, up to four years. Even upper-level forestry positions like district silviculturists are often paid a couple GS levels less than what they’re supposed to be. Obviously holding pack pay increases doesn’t make the Forest Service an inviting place for talented young people with the skills to work elsewhere.

Recommendation 4: Hire more people

A major theme of my essay is that rural places are often lonely for young people. In a small Forest Service town, the community of seasonals is likely to provide most of the social life for employees fresh out of college. More seasonals and young permanents would mean a richer community, and more reasons to stick around. More jobs open generally may also decrease the need to move frequently to climb up the ladder, therefore increasing stability of the Forest Service lifestyle, for those who want it. Additionally, having more employees would increase the talent pool available to the Forest Service.

Recommendation 5: Make rural districts better places for young people
Those small towns with higher proportions of young people have a couple of common characteristics: ‘natural amenities’ defined by proximity to scenery, topographic variation, water, large
forested regions, and/or a pleasant climate, and access to recreation. For the most part, natural amenities are a set asset, and some places will have more than others. But Forest Service districts can work with the natural amenities they have to develop recreation opportunities that will give people of all ages more reasons to move to a town and stick with it. I won’t claim that developing recreation is a magic bullet: it can lead to well-known issues with rural gentrification, cultural clashes, and high turnover of residents. But from what I’ve seen in both the literature and from various places I’ve lived, developing recreation is the only option that small production-focused towns have for attracting and retaining young people with college degrees.

Recommendation 6: Recruit (and retain) a greater diversity of workers

The United States is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of racial identity, gender identity, sexuality, and other dimensions of identity, and the Forest Service cannot adequately serve this diverse constituency without hiring and retaining a more diverse set of employees, and making them feel included in the agency. Additionally, an increasing number of young people prioritize being in communities and jobs where they are surrounded by a diversity of identities and viewpoints, as a matter of both self-growth and societal equity. The Forest Service has made strides to increase diversity and inclusion in the agency, but there is still a widespread perception and a reality of the Forest Service dominated by heterosexual white men. The agency will not fare well in recruitment and retention of young employees if it does not improve its reputation on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Recommendation 7: Promote forestry and inspire the general public
I think this is my most important recommendation in my essay. Since the day I decided to major in forestry I’ve been fielding questions like: ‘so you want to be a park ranger?’ Most often people that I interact with either don’t have any kind of schema for what forestry is, and they go straight to one end or the other of the ‘loggers vs. tree huggers’ dichotomy, depending on where they grew up and what their experiences in forests had been. I’ve often tried to explain forestry to a friend or loved one several times, and they end up going back to the dichotomy. In my time in grad school, several people have told me to call myself a researcher of forest ecology rather than a researcher of silviculture or forestry, because I would get more grant money. For decades college departments have been moving away from using the word ‘forestry’ in their name, like my department at the University of Washington. Career is such a defining part of identity in our culture, and the forestry community is surely losing both talented young people and the money to hire them to the lack of positive public perception of forestry. I think what we’re lacking is inspiration; I haven’t seen many folks successfully communicating what an inspiring job we have, working to balance many crucial societal needs at once. If we can do a better job at being inspiring about forestry, I think it would go a long way towards improving the Forest Service’s ability to recruit and retain young people.

Changes in my opinions since I wrote the essay in 2017

I don’t have many changes to my opinions since I wrote the original essay, but it’s possible some things are out of date already. My finger is less on the pulse of Forest Service affairs than it was in 2017; when my time with the Forest Service and with the Society of American Foresters was fresh and more relevant. Additionally, most of my experience and research was relevant to the Millennial generation that I’m a part of, but Generation Z is increasingly more relevant to discussions about young employees. There was little published research on Gen Z in the workplace when I was looking, and I haven’t had time to dig into any literature that’s been published since. My hunch is that Gen Z has similar attitudes towards the workplace to Millennials, and that it may be even more imperative for the Forest Service to pay attention to their needs and to my recommendations to recruit and retain Gen Z employees, but I don’t have a lot of hard evidence to back that up.

I am now a little more optimistic about the ability of small towns to attract and retain young people, after seeing movement patterns shift somewhat during the pandemic, when remote work untethered some employees from their employer’s location. Clearly there are some young people living in big cities for economic reasons when lifestyle preferences might lean more rural. I haven’t had time to research pandemic movement patterns in depth, but the fact that some young people did move out of cities when given the economic opportunity gives hope that small Forest Service towns will be able to attract and retain vibrant communities of talented young employees, if the Forest Service can provide a quality place of employment.

About the author
Don Radcliffe is currently studying fuel treatment longevity and rotation, as a PhD candidate in Brian Harvey’s lab at the University of Washington. He has previously worked for the Forest Service in Montana as a silviculture technician and firefighter, for the Society of American Foresters in Washington D.C. as a forest policy intern, and as a project manager with his parents’ construction company in Wisconsin. He has a B.S. in Forest Science and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and an M.S. in Environment and Natural Resources from Ohio State University, where he studied mesophication in oak forests. He is also on Twitter here.

193+: Gospels of Efficiency – What Does Efficiency Mean, Anyway? by Lloyd Irland

This is the second in our series of posts summarizing and riffing on folks’ essays from the Steve Wilent-edited book 193 Million Acres. I first met Lloyd Irland’s  work back in the dinosaur days; a paper or presentation about Maine woodlots in conditions of market uncertainty.  I tried to find it to introduce this essay, but instead ran across a book chapter from 1984 on improving the EIS process: a case study of spruce budworm control.  Suffice it to say that Dr. Irland has been around for a while, and seen and studied many interesting things.


When I was an undergrad, forestry economists were confidently announcing with a new approach to setting priorities: evaluate them according to economic metrics like net present value and return on investment. This, they believed, would enable officials to screen out projects that the economists considered inefficient and thus boost effectiveness of management of the federal forests. It was time, they said to make decisions on the basis of economic facts rather that vague notions of “good management”. Vast displays of such analyses, often comparing dozens and dozens of treatment options, were produced. Economists were soon being added to staffs at individual National Forests. Late in graduate school I read Sam Hays’s book “The Gospel of Efficiency” (note: this book can be read for free) about the leaders of the early conservation movement.

Fast forward a few decades: Steve Wilent invites contributions to a book on the “Efficiency and effectiveness of the US Forest Service”. I ponder this for a time: “efficiency, not a bad idea. But what does it really mean for forestry anyway?” As I thought about this, I remembered Hays’s book and decided to review an evolving series of different “Gospels of Efficiency”, a shorthand way to talk about different definitions of efficiency. I came up with a list:

Efficiency as elimination of waste, of losses to forest fire, and overgrazing. Major themes of early foresters at a time of peak lumber consumption by a growing nation. This way Hays’s conservation movement.

Efficiency as cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis, to be based on quantification. Science was to be the arbiter of what is “efficient”. This was becoming institutionalized as Program Planning and Budgeting, led on by MacNamara’s whiz kids at the Department of Defense. Those priests of efficiency then got me sent to Vietnam to efficiently fire artillery at targets out in the jungle.

The Gospel of Growth: effectiveness as working to meet ever-rising future needs for wood, meat, water, and campsites and hiking trails. Extreme examples proliferated: roads and pre-commercial
thinnings in lodgepole stands at 8,000 feet even “terracing” to solve the problem of poor regeneration. Huge dams were built on the premise that water that did not flow over an alfalfa field or through a turbine was flowing wastefully to the sea.

By the 1970s and 80s, more groups walked into the debates on efficiency with different notions of what might be efficient—unquantifiable values, outdoor recreation, biodiversity needed to be
accommodated, if not reign supreme. How to do this? The Gospel of Planning arose. We would build national RPA planning assessments and those would help set priorities for new Management
Plans that would enables us to serve all important values at once. The staffs, their offices, their conferences, and their documents got bigger and bigger. The ensuing analysis paralysis frustrated everyone. I found myself quoting General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell who remarked, after visiting the Army’s War Plans unit in about 1940: “Somebody with a loud voice and big stick needs to march in there and yell “Halt”. Then carry all the plans outside and burn them”.

A solution was duly found: We’d keep the books better. Accounting, we were told, would give us the answers we were seeking. Hence the journey into TSPIRS. Money gainers were efficient, losers weren’t. That would be that. Herculean efforts ensued, conferences were held, computers whirred, accountants debated. Then the idea seems to have vanished.

Today a new Gospel has arrived: the Gospel of Ecosystem Services. If managing forests can’t make money from wood, answer is to get people to pay for ecosystem services. This concept had been
gaining traction for some time as Carbon arrived –the ultimate ecosystem service. It is not possible building on inventory, yield predictions, and GIS achievements for past decades, to design management program that will maximize the new single variable of choice: the carbon balance.

One reader of a draft cautioned me that the term “Gospels” should never be mentioned on campus these days. I retained it anyway as it hints at the fervor and determination of the advocates for these programs. None of these advocates were fools; they were optimistic that they had found solutions – they could make “efficiency” an effective mandate and guideline for forest management.

But the history of these Gospels shows that efficiency has meaning only in relation to goals. If there are no agreed-upon goals, then efficiency dissolves as a goal. But in an increasingly polarized and even tribal society, groups are bitterly divided over goals. For a time, satisfying groups of warring “stakeholders” seemed the only way forward. Now in a time when every stakeholder is back d by “campaigners”, litigators, and abundant funding, making peace among stakeholders seems a faint hope in many places.

Solutions: there are no new Gospels to resolve these predicaments, which are rooted in the polarization and entitlement trends in our wider society. Forestry cannot escape them. Some observers believe they are making effective governance virtually impossible, a view that has some merit in my estimation. A few incremental improvements could be made, however. Let me list two, and hope that you will read the full essay to see the others.

Revitalize and place higher priority on National Forest System implementation and effectiveness monitoring. For a time this was an active field. Today you search in vain for recent and through
reports. Without good information on what is actually happening, how can we begin to discuss efficiency, effectiveness, or goal attainment? Probably few “Forest Supes” ever make Regional
Forester on the basis of distinction on this task. I know this process interests data nerds and policy junkies like myself, but it is only good management and communication. It has to be done.

Second, I once had copies of two evaluations, a decade apart, that were conducted on the National Forests in Wyoming, following intense criticism of management practices on marginal, roadless lands. Unfortunately this was a pre-computer, pre-pdf era. Both reports were by informed and serious, outside people who studied, listened, and visited. The reports, in my opinion, were excellent, and should have received much wider distribution. I wish this could be done again, now and then, in representative locations around the country.


from Sharon.. if anyone has copies of these evaluations, please send and I will post.