TEAMS Enterprise update and outreach

Joseph Zorzin redoak at
Thu Jan 31 08:07:36 EST 2002


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.

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 produced 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 the
"higher levels" of the bureaucracy that don't produce much- let's get down to

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 staff. Is it
likely that this staff will result in the sale of a million bucks were of
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 out 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 staff 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 thing- 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 why 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 and/or
pruning or any other such work, the economic justification for this can be
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- and 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 people are
really worth their cost to the public or not. And, obviously, some special
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 on 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 on
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 and 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 little on the
fundamental economics of such activity. Both are important.


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