Logging on our National Forests

Don Baccus dhogaza at pacifier.com
Thu Nov 13 00:14:45 EST 1997

In article <3468DFE4.2C8B at mail.olympus.net>,
Michael Hagen  <mhagen at mail.olympus.net> wrote:
>> >> How can a government agency do a good job when it routinely breaks the law,
>> >> as the USFS has done?

>Give me a break!

>I've drafted half a dozen responses to this thread and deleted em all. 

Should've deleted this one, too...

>Without looking into the past of the USFS and being willing to devote
>several hundred pages to this old topic, you can't put out more than
>soundbites.  In every case I know of, especially on the Olympic NF,
>forest service people are honest, diligent and almost obsessively
>concerned with following the letter of the law.

There's a certain degree of truth to this.  It helps explain, for instance,
the fact that wildlife biologists working for the USFS describe themselves
as "combat biologists".  It describes why so many of them quit after they
understand the true meaning of that description: that they are in combat 
with the timber side of the house.

You may choose not to believe what I have to say.  However, Jack Ward Thomas,
a USFS devotee (and a USFS biologist that didn't quit, described as wearing
"USFS green underwear" due to his devotion to the Service) in essence has 
said the same thing.  The director of Region 6 (that's your state and mine,
bub) said that in essence conservationists were right - directly after 
retirement when interviewed by The Oregonian regarding his personal views
on forest debate.

Given that much of the USFS agrees with my position, I'd have to say that
you need to prove that not only I, but much of the USFS themselves, are

On an individual level, I agree with you that USFS employees are honest,
etc etc.  I never said otherwise.  I simply stated what the USFS, as an
organization, has done.  The reality is that those honest, law-abiding folks
have habitually been crushed by upper management.  Upper management has been
chosen, historically, by their ability to meet timber production goals, and
nothing else.  This has led to a situation where those who are least 
concerned with the other mandates of the NFMA, etc have been raised to the
highest positions in the Service.

For instance, Dale Roberstson was head of the USFS before Thomas.  He earlier
was Forest Ranger for the Siuslaw.  Now, forest maps often have trademark
wildlife and flowers adorning Smokey's Ranger Hat as an emblem of what 
makes their forest unique.  The Siuslaw had a house sparrow - an introduced
bird of urban habitat - adorning Smokey's hat.  Hilarious, and sad.  The
"mission statement" for the forest also appeared on this (70's, 80's) map
under Robertson's direction - a long tribute to timber production with
absolutely no reference to wilderness and the like.  In contrast,
Baker-Snoqualamie maps from the same era tout wilderness, etc.

It is no surprise that Robertson would be the model Forest Ranger to
be rocketed towards top administrative positions.

>The rub comes when you look at the laws: the NFMA, the ESA, NEPA,
>ammendments to the above, and the yearly budgets with radically
>differing provisions. These laws are NOT easy to figure out even for
>those who deal with them regularly. Court decisions for better or worse,
>reinterpret the original meaning of Congress, and over the time since
>the NFMA was passed,just for one law, there's been a great shift between
>the intent of Congress, the laws as written, their practical application
>in the field and judicial opinion. 

Horseshit.  The NFMA is very clear on many points.  Sustained yield is
one of them.  It was so clear that the USFS lied about inventory so as
to appear to be following it.

You may choose not to believe me.  However, you have a real problem in
explaining why the USFS itself agrees that it lied about inventory.  And
that the retired head of Region 6 says they cut above sustained yield
under his tenure, when interviewed by The Oregonian soon after his

>Given that, how do you figure the Forest Service has stayed in existance
>for the last hundred or so years?

What else would replace it???  There's really never been a viable alternative
on the horizon.

Most conservationists don't hate the USFS and don't want to get rid of it.
We want to create a political climate where Congress demands they follow
the law, rather than try to coerce them into breaking it.  

And Congress has done so.  Oregon Congressman Les AuCoin was a master, as
was our Senator Mark O. Hatfied.  Your Senator Slade Gorton seems to realize
that these days have passed, and is taking the more direct route of passing
laws which are openly contrary to the NFMA, ESA etc.  The Salvage Rider
being his one most significant success thus far.

Ironically, in the meantime conditions in the USFS have changed so that
they've fought such efforts.  Indeed, the USFS internally is more determined
to follow existing environmental law than at any time in the past 20+
years.  Jack Ward Thomas gets a lot of credit for that, along with the
early retirement of some of the old guard.

Gorton realizes this, and therefore he and the likes of Larry Craig have
been forced to expose their aims via explicit legislation.  This is
welcome - it puts the debate in the public eye.  We can now see what the
hell they're up to, and the past three years have shown that the majority
of the American public doesn't like it.

>This isn't the first time that it
>might have been legislated out of existance.

What are you talking about?  Who is asking to legislate the USFS out of

>There are whole
>National Forests existing where there were barren logged off and tax
>delinquent lands less than century ago. Some of these, amazingly, have
>spots in them people want to call wilderness.

Name one.

>Cutting no more "old
>growth" is not new. That's pretty much how it was done through the first
>half of the century. 

Pardon me?  The USFS didn't harvet much timber, that is true, but only because
Big Timber fought proposals to do so because they felt it would lower the value
of timber on their own lands.  They had no desire to support small operators
with no timberlands of their own.

After WWII, though, Big Timber begged for increased federal sales and got it.

They did so because their own old-growth was gone.  The fact that they demolished
their own old-growth (in most cases, with the notable exception of Weyerhauser, with no
efforts to replant) is hardly an argument that old-growth wasn't harvested.

>Stopping all logging on USFS administered land is a reaction to the
>enthusiastic overcutting of the Reagan years, which was legal at the

Under what basis?  It was legal only because the USFS lied about inventory.
It took years (and a $500,000 study by the Wilderness Society) to document
that lie.

The USFS now, of course, agrees that inventories were inflated so don't bother
arguing with me.

>as well as a contradiction between the ESA and the budget rider,
>Section 318.

Section 318's overriding of the ESA was later declared to be unconstitutional,
but the harvest had already happened.

>The USFS wrote neither of the laws but has been getting the
>cheap shots ever since. Its the Congressional members who deserve the
>attention and the questions of competancy.

I agree with much of this, when you speak of USFS rank-and-file.  Indeed,
I've stood up for them many times in this, and other, forums.  

However, top management was self-selected for willingness to go along with
the game. 


- Don Baccus, Portland OR <dhogaza at pacifier.com>
  Nature photos, on-line guides, at http://donb.photo.net

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