Forest Focus - November 24, 1998

Don Baccus dhogaza at
Sun Nov 29 18:04:31 EST 1998

In article <366118FA.46BA3143 at>,
Joseph Zorzin  <redoak at> wrote:
>Well, OK, now you've given your 2 cents on O'Toole.

Is this addressed to me?  You've deleted all context so I can only
guess "yes".

>And we now know from YOUR messages how you more or less don't agree with
>any solutions offered here.

As I mentioned, I don't totally disagree with O'Toole.  I agree in principle
with user fees for recreational users, for instance, though I have some
fairly strong disagreements with the way the USFS has chosen to implement
their current experimental program.  For instance, my Golden Eagle Pass,
for which I paid $50, says it is good for entry fees on all federal lands,
but not use fees (campgrounds, etc being specifically listed as instance).
So you go to a National Monument run by the USFS, and it has a little
entrance booth that looks exactly like one on an NPS-run National Monument.
BUT, they won't accept your Golden Eagle Pass because they've you're not
"entering" the Monument, but "using" it.  The USFS makes this distinction
intentionally in order to avoid honoring Golden Eagle passes.

Likewise, in a couple of LA area NFs, you have to pay for a use permit
for the National Forests, and since they've privatized trailhead parking
you have to pay again to park.  Even the USFS says this sucks and plans
stop this practice.

When it comes to the economic value of preserving our biological heritage,
though, I haven't seen O'Toole or anyone else come up with a model that
ends up saying anything other than "species conservation isn't worth
hardly anything".  Economics simply doesn't do a good job of capturing
value which isn't within the money system.  Economics is a good tool
within its realm, but those who propose that economics be used to
measure all values are as wrong as one who'd suggest we use evolutionary
theory as the sole means of determining the Fed interest rate.  I'd
much rather having Alan Greenspan with his firm grasp of economics making
the latter decision than, say, Stephen Jay Gould.

In the particular case of Randal O'Toole, I don't trust him because I've
seen him be intentionally dishonest with "facts" in other, non-forest
related contexts.  My comments about him aren't meant to imply that I
think ALL economists are shysters or worse, not at all.

Solutions?  I'm not sure.  In the 1970s we passed a bunch of legislation
that was meant to provide one model of management.  Unfortunately, we don't
know if that model works because the USFS has never implemented it.  The
agency is FINALLY getting close to implementing it, and now there are 
efforts to dismantle that model.

So one possible approach might be to actually test the model by running
the obvious experiment - see what happens if the USFS willingly obeys
the laws passed 25 years ago, rather than fight tooth-and-nail to
avoid doing so.

>So, what's YOUR solution to the National Forests losing money? Should we
>except it as it is? Or should we just shut down the USFS?

I don't see a problem with the USFS losing money, frankly.  To say it
must make money is to say that our NFs must be managed to make money
regardless of other values, and I don't happen to agree with that
philosophy.  Remember that here in the PNW - USFS production still
mostly comes from OR/WA - the USFS is supposed to agressively 
protect habitat for species at risk in order to lower the burden on
private landowners.  If we're going to follow that strategy, it
seems unreasonable to also demand that the strategy lead to the
USFS making a profit.  It represents a subsidy to private timber
producers, but I don't mind that.  Of course, salmon issues threaten
to undo this strategy, but that's another story altogether.

But, should we lose money selling timber?  I dunno.  If we're losing
money because we're insisting on expensive but sound harvest techniques,
I'm not offended.  You must remember that out here in the West the
industry paints the timber sales program as being a big money maker for
the taxpayer and that has been one of their arguments against their
conservationist opponents.  If they hadn't made such claims for so long
the profitability of the timber sales program per se might never have
become much of an issue.

- Don Baccus, Portland OR <dhogaza at>
  Nature photos, on-line guides, at

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