Today's Forests Lack Color

Michael Hagen mhagen at
Mon Dec 8 12:32:35 EST 1997

Thank you for posting, sir. The denizens of this newsgroup have been
waiting for an official USDA-FS person to take a chance and respond.  
Mike H.

dennis g garcia wrote:
>     For years I had been puzzled by how few people of color use the
>  national forests.  I initially believed this was due to the low number
>  of people of color employed by the USDA Forest Service.  However,
>  after more than 20 years' work with schools, universities, churches,
>  and civic organizations in communities of color, I have some strong
>  contrary opinions.  I have concluded that people in communities of
>  color, particularly the African-American community, know little about
>  national forest system lands, and virtually none of them realize that
>  these are public lands--their public lands.
>     Each year for the past five years, I have begun my presentations
>  for urban youth groups by asking, "Who owns the national forests?"
>  Each year I receive the same answers: "the government," "Smokey Bear,"
>  etc.  These answers are deeply disappointing.  Generally, to this
>  audience, the forest is just that, "the forest."  They know little
>  about the differences between federal, state, private, and industry
>  ownerships.
>     I am convinced, first of all, that lack of knowledge is the primary
>  factor contributing to the lack of national forest use by communities
>  of color.  Furthermore, I believe that such lack of knowledge is, in
>  part, due to the failure of the Forest Service and other forestry and
>  environmental entities to engage communities of color, the majority of
>  whom reside in urban settings.
>     My second opinion: the prevailing myth, which maintains that lack
>  of transportation, equipment, leisure time, and money are the primary
>  factors for the lack of national forest use by communities of color,
>  is just that--a myth, one grounded in ignorance and racial bias.
>     The July issue of the NAACP's "Crisis" magazine reported that
>  dozens of African-American organizations spend, in total nearly S210
>  million in the cities hosting their national conventions.  The article
>  also estimated that the African-American community spends more that S4
>  billion annually on travel and lodging.  Nike, Adidas, and other
>  industrial giants compete for dollars in communities of color by
>  advertising in minority media and supporting minority organizations.
>     This leads to my third opinion:  we at the Forest Service should
>  increase the marketing of our product, services, and economic
>  resources in communities of color.  Our leaders and employees
>  regularly meet and form economic partnerships with leaders of the
>  timber industry, environmental groups, and professional organizations,
>  such as the Society of American Foresters.  We even reward such
>  activities as examples of leadership and good stewardship.  Yes, these
>  meetings and partnerships are important.  But as we carry out the
>  service part of our mission, we must share our time and economic
>  resources with communities of color.
>     In 1992 two Wind River Ranger District employees, Tom Linde and
>  Carmen Saunders, approached me with a plan aimed at marketing national
> forests to urban
> minority youth.  They wanted to involve minority
>  young people in National Fishing Week activities.
>     Urban service organizations were searching for opportunities to
>  introduce urban youth to outdoor experiences.  Linde and Saunders
>  believed public lands should be a focal point for these activities and
>  that Forest Service employees should assume a leadership role in
>  introducing communities of color to the use of their national forest.
>     Thus began Urban Youth Camp-Outs in Washington State.  We have
>  since found them to be instrumental in achieving our agency mission of
>  "Caring for the Land and Service People."
>     Programs such as Urban Youth Camp-Outs present tremendous
>  opportunities for creating environmentally conscientious forest users
>  and for building working relationships with communities of color.
>  This year alone, our Camp-Out program will serve more than 200 young
>  people
>     Which leads to my final opinion:  as a result of the camp-outs,
>  several cooperating organizations have become involved in Forest
>  Service Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) grants.  One local
>  cooperator, the Bagley Teen Center, received a S10,000 U&CF grant to
>  develop a Teen Tree Steward Program.  Gifford Pinchot National Forest
>  employees will teach classes in soils and silviculture for the tree
>  stewards.  However, the forest is not funded to provide this support.
>  I am told that since U&CF funding is pass-through money (S612,000 this
>  year in Washington and Oregon) to the state, there is nothing left for
>  funding national forest participation in the local community.  Even
>  though many programs are staffed entirely by volunteers, most such
>  community request go unanswered because we lack funding.
>     Funding these efforts in local communities should be part of the
>  Forest Service's State and Private Forestry (S&PF) Urban and Community
>  Forestry program.  This year the S&PF Urban Forestry program was
>  funded at S26 million nationally.  So it's obvious--to me,
>  anyway--that there are sufficient funds for state and national forest
>  efforts in urban forestry.
>     Our philosophies and even our regulations on the use of urban
>  forestry funding cry out for change!  Communities of color contribute
>  tax dollars, allowing the forest Service to carry out its mission.
>  All such communities ask is to be included in the people we serve.
>  ____________________________________________________
>  Earl Ford is the ecosystem staff officer,
>  USDA Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
>  10600 NE 51st Circle, Vancouver, WA  98682

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