TEAMS Enterprise update and outreach

mhagen mhagen at
Fri Feb 1 12:18:45 EST 2002

I worked on the old Eldorado too - 1971, back when Tahoe basin was still in
it.  This is a tough question, for all the usual reasons people have a hard
time talking about the FS.  The question of whether or not the FS makes
economic sense is meaningless - it was never supposed to and likely breaking
even on a national scale is the best it can do.  I happened to work for them
when they were making a profit - at least on the timber rich forests - and
that era is now looked on as  a disaster. A period of "capture" by industry.
Decide what the agency's mission is and then you can start finding ways for
it to pay for itself  - if that is really what anybody wants. Frankly I
don't see anyone paying for ecosystem services like clean water or air for a
long while.  Those are entitlements in the eyes of the counties and cities
that are benefiting from them.

"Larry Harrell" <fotoware at> wrote in message
news:e_e68.10660$By6.1198147 at
> Joseph Zorzin <redoak at> wrote in message
> news:3C594197.C41D9160 at
> > Larry,
> >
> > Since you seem to be the one USFS guy active in alt.forestry who has the
> most
> > experience in the Circus.... er I mean Service, let me ask you a few
> questions.
> >
> Yes, it sometimes does seem like a Circus, complete with three rings under
> the bigtop. Look at the Bitterroot mess going on currently.
> > I've always been trying to get a grip on the productivity of the USFS
> staff in
> > the terms I'm most familiar with- value of product sold (or value
> that
> > won't be seen for years) vs. cost of staff.
> >
> > So, ignoring the costs to pay for all the "ologists", and ignoring the
> costs to
> > fight enviros in court- and ignoring all the costs associated with all
> > "higher levels" of the bureaucracy that don't produce much- let's get
> to
> > basics:
> >
> It is extremely difficult to seperate the "ologists" from the project,
> especially in the case of Northwest Forest Plan projects, which force us
> survey for a multitude of species within the project areas. Along with
> projects come the expected appeals and court battles associated with these
> areas of great wildlife habitat and larger trees.
> > Let's say we look at some typical National Forest with say a million
> acres.
> > Let's say half of that is "commercial forest" under some sort of actual
> > management. Let's say that this forest has 20 foresters and forest
> technicians.
> > Let's arbitrarily say that it costs a million bucks to pay for this
> Is it
> > likely that this staff will result in the sale of a million bucks were
> > timber, on average, over time- such that, over time, this staff will be
> able to
> > at least pay for itself, ignoring those costs I mention above which is
> of
> > their hands?
> >
> > I would suggest that if they can't at least pay their own way under the
> > circumstances I describe, then changes should occur so that forestry
> would
> > be focused on producing value. As a consultant I have to produce several
> times
> > more value than I get to keep. That seems reasonable to me, I serve the
> client.
> > I should think that public foresters should be able to do the same
> while
> > still doing all the politically correct eco stuff. I realize there are
> > complications, such as the ologists and law suits and others, which is
> I
> > don't count those.
> >
> > But, I can't think of any other way to determine the "productivity" of a
> > forestry staff. Obviously, if they are doing precommercial thinning
> > pruning or any other such work, the economic justification for this can
> > analyzed. So, even if several years go by with no profit, it may be
> justifiable,
> > if the numbers can be shown that such work will pay off in the future-
> in
> > that case, it could be claimed that such activity is good economics.
> >
> > Again, I'm trying get a grip on determining whether public forestry
> are
> > really worth their cost to the public or not. And, obviously, some
> > issues may arise- like you may be switched to fighting forest fires- so
> that
> > activity can't be seen in a profit/loss perspective. I'm just focusing
> the
> > basic nitty gritty forestry activities. I'm not thinking in terms of
> whether
> > people are lazy, but whether or not their hard work is properly focused
> > producing value in the forest.
> >
> > Some people may be working "hard" but the value of that hard work isn't
> > economically worth the cost. Somebody in the USFS and state governments
> ought to
> > be looking at this. Maybe they do in the USFS, they don't in state
> governments.
> >
> > If it can be shown by the above analysis that there is real value in the
> work of
> > the forestry staff, then that will be a great way to protect your jobs
> it
> > will be a good case to show why forestry is a good thing.
> >
> > Too many people focus on the ecology of the public forests and too
> on the
> > fundamental economics of such activity. Both are important.
> >
> > JZ
> >
> >
> Economics of forest management in the USFS should be an important part of
> what we're doing but, most of the kinds of thinning projects we do are
> labor-intensive, cover thousands of acres, harvest smaller and smaller
> and make very little money. Projects like these hinge on the sawlog and
> biomass markets and are very close to being a "service contract", where we
> pay someone to come in and work. Many of these projects are critical to
> making stands more fire resistant. Monopolies in some areas further reduce
> the value of harvested timber. I often wonder if our minimum rates
> be raised in order to truly reflect the costs of offering the timber sale
> but, will mills bid on that higher priced timber?
> As far as the work ethics of the USFS, I've worked on a great many
> Ranger Districts and seen quite a range of foresters. Some are very much
> into getting out on the ground and personally visiting each unit to
> themselves they're doing the right thing. Others rarely venture outside
> office, layout the units using maps and photos and use stand exam data to
> write their prescriptions. Some foresters feel that they've paid their
> and won't go out and beat the brush. Those are the kind who demand a
> temporary employee to do their dirty work, complain most about the quality
> of temps and spend way too much time in the office.
> Here, the uncertainty of the Sierra Nevada Framework continues to wreak
> havoc on us. Many Ranger Districts are still coping with downsizing and
> actually "top-heavy". The Eldorado National Forest (my old Forest)
> jettisonned all their temporary timber crews. This is quite significant
> because those highly qualified people I used to work with are now lost to
> the USFS. When the pendulum swings back towards active management of our
> forests, we'll have to train new people to do that all-important work on
> ground. Also, with a big round of retirements coming, we stand to lose a
> of our expertise.
> Back to economics, TEAMS is helping to remedy this situation and people in
> Washington DC have taken notice. TEAMS is very attractive to a lot of
> managers because we're all trained, we come in and work long hours, finish
> the project and we're gone. A temporary crew is always cheaper by the hour
> but less productive, less knowledgable, require extensive training and
> supervision. With the success of Region 5's Enterprises, the Washington
> office has extended the Enterprise program to 2 other Regions.
> The botton line is, we don't get a lot of money out of the forest with our
> work but, we do get a lot of value in improvements to stands of trees that
> desperately needs work.
> Larry
> --
>        Larry Harrell Fotoware
> New version of "Virtual Yosemite"!!
> Downloadable demo available at
> Check out my web site at   New pages!!!

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