Interesting speech on forestry in the media (VERY long)

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at
Wed Dec 17 15:51:11 EST 2003

CAUTION! Some right-wing material MAY be present! Read at own risk <G>

&#8220;What is the Forest Service doing right and what is it doing

By James D. Petersen
Executive Director, The Evergreen Foundation
Publisher, Evergreen Magazine

USDA Forest Service 
Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs Conference
Embassy Suites Hotel, Phoenix, Arizona
November 18, 2003

 When Joe Walsh called to ask me if I would come to Phoenix to &#8211;
in his words &#8211; &#8220;tell us what we are doing right and what
we are doing wrong&#8221; &#8211; I wasn&#8217;t entirely sure I
should accept his invitation. The question tugs at the roots of
problems that have been festering both within and beyond the Forest
Service for at least 30 years.

 That I did accept his invitation &#8211; and am here this morning -
attests to my own concerns about the future of our nation&#8217;s
federal forests and the future of the Forest Service itself. I confess
there are times when I think that the federal government should get
the hell out of the land business. I raised this point in a roundabout
way in a one-page essay in the August issue of Evergreen Magazine.
Here is what I wrote:

 &#8220;Does anyone know what our federal government&#8217;s forest
management objective is? I don&#8217;t &#8211; and I&#8217;ve been
trying to figure it out since 1985. My friend Jack Ward Thomas, who
was Chief of the Forest Service during the Clinton years, once told me
he thought the objective was to conserve plant and animal species
associated with old growth forests. That would be fine if we were
doing it, but we&#8217;ve lost so much old growth to wildfires in
recent years, without attacking the underlying causes of this
calamity, that I am no longer sure what our objective is.&#8221;

 Let me add that nothing has happened since last August to alter my
belief that our federal land management policy objectives form a
rudderless ship.

 Is it important that we have a federal forest management objective? I
think so. Nature in indifferent to human need &#8211; and our nation
of 280 million clearly has a great many needs where our national
forests are concerned, so we ought to set some management objectives
that help ensure that these needs can be met in perpetuity.

 If we let public opinion be our guide, it&#8217;s easy to figure out
what most people want from federal forests. In survey after survey,
clean air, clean water and abundant fish and wildlife habitat
consistently outpoll all other forest values. But is our government
managing the public&#8217;s forests in ways that protect air and water
quality or fish and wildlife habitat? Is it protecting biological
diversity or soil stability, natural history or archeological sites,
recreation areas or just plain old scenery? Not by a long shot, not
with millions of acres of treasured public forestland lost to
catastrophic fire year after year.

 An old Tennessee biologist friend described the problem to me in
exquisite words in a 1995 Evergreen interview. He said, and I quote,
&#8220;The problem with leaving forests to nature, as so many seem to
want to do, is that we get whatever nature serves up, which can be
pretty devastating at times. But with forestry we have options, and a
degree of predictability not found in nature.&#8221;

 Let me put my Forest Service relationship in context in both place
and time.

 I am the founder and publisher of Evergreen Magazine and the
executive director of the non-profit Evergreen Foundation. The
Foundation exists for only one reason: to help advance public
understanding and support for science-based forestry. To this end we
publish Evergreen, a periodic journal designed to keep our members and
others abreast of issues and events impacting forestry, forest
communities and the forest products industry.

So far as I am able to determine, Evergreen is the most widely read
forestry magazine in North America. This has been the case since we
started publishing in early 1986. Our original mission was to
stimulate public interest and involvement in the congressionally
mandated forest planning process. With only one exception we used the
pages of Evergreen to endorse the Forest Service&#8217;s preferred

Between 1986 and 1990 we generated more than one million comments on
federal forest plans for Oregon and northern California. Some were the
check off cards comment review teams hated for reasons I never
understood, but many more were handwritten letters from people whose
lives were being turned upside down by sue-happy environmental groups
that eventually wrecked the planning process itself.

Suffice it to say, I have spent most of the last 18 years of my life
on the front lines in a cultural war that, for a time, divided the
nation in a way not unlike the Civil War divided us. In an economic
sense many western communities have suffered just as mightily as the
Old South suffered in 1864 and 1865. And I dare say there is as much
bitterness built up in western rural environs as there was in the

But my relationship with the Forest Service began much earlier in my
life than Evergreen&#8217;s founding. I remember &#8211; as though it
was yesterday &#8211; the day Wallace District Ranger William Stout
strolled into my third grade classroom at Sunnyside School in Kellogg,
Idaho, ramrod straight, dressed in his fine green uniform. That was 50
years ago this fall &#8211; 1953 &#8211; the year Fortune Magazine
named the U.S. Forest Service one of the two most admired
organizations in America. The other was the United States Marine

For the benefit of those of you too young to know, the old Forest
Service uniform was deliberately patterned after the Marine uniform.
Similarly, the 10 Standing Orders for firefighters are taken from the
Marine&#8217;s 10 Standing Orders. Bud Moore, a Marine himself long
before he became Northern Region fire boss, had the idea.

Back then there was an esprit de corps in the Forest Service that I am
sad to say it can no longer lay claim to. My Random House dictionary
defines esprit de corps as &#8220;a sense of union and of common
interests and responsibilities, as developed among a group of persons
associated together.&#8221;

There is not as much esprit de corps in America as there once was
&#8211; so I guess I should not be surprised there is not much left in
what so many Forest Service old timers simply called &#8220;the
outfit.&#8221; It still thrives in the oldest among you, men like my
friend Marlin Johnson, but they will retire soon &#8211; and more of
the Forest Service&#8217;s history of quite remarkable accomplishment
will go with them.

Time doesn&#8217;t permit me to dwell much on the Forest
Service&#8217;s history of service to the nation, but I want to read
something to you that I think probably set the tone for much of what
the outfit accomplished in its first 50-some years. This is a quote
from a speech in which President Teddy Roosevelt laid out his vision
for protecting the nation&#8217;s forests. The event was a Society of
American Foresters meeting in Washington, D.C. in, I believe, 1903.
Here is what he said:

&#8220;And now, first and foremost, you can never forget for a moment
what is the object of our forest policy. That object is not to
preserve forests because they are beautiful, though that is good in
itself; nor because they are refuges for the wild creatures of the
wilderness, though that, too, is good in itself; but the primary
object of our forest policy, as of the land policy of the United
States, is the making of prosperous homes. It is part of the
traditional policy of homemaking in our country. Every other
consideration comes as secondary. You, yourselves, have got to keep
this practical object before your minds; to remember that a forest
which contributes nothing to the wealth, progress or safety of the
country is of no interest to the government and should be of little
interest to the forester. Your attention must be directed to the
preservation of forests, not as an end in itself, but as the means of
preserving and increasing the prosperity of the nation.&#8221;

I can&#8217;t help but wonder what President Roosevelt, a man revered
by early conservationists, would have to say about the mess we are in
today. I don&#8217;t think he would mince his words in voicing his
great displeasure with what we have done to his vision.

How far we have fallen &#8211; in less time than it takes to grow the
very forests we all treasure.

I think it is time to for a course correction &#8211; time for each of
you to consider rededicating yourselves to what I believe is the
Forest Service&#8217;s true mission: the stewardship and care of
America&#8217;s National Forests. These forests were not established
to be off limits to public use. Quite the contrary, they exist as
sources of economic and social well being for the country. They were
never intended to be the playthings of special interest groups &#8211;
and those who were involved in their formation &#8211;
conservationists in a vastly different meaning of the word - would be
appalled by what is happening today.

Here in the West, water has replaced timber as the primary raw
material the public needs from its forests. 70 percent of the water
consumed in our western towns and cities rises from publicly owned
forests. Every time a faucet is turned on in Denver, Salt Lake City,
Missoula, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles or here in
Phoenix, the user enjoys a gift of life from an often-distant forest.
Yet the myth persists that harvesting timber from forests degrades
water quality, when in fact water quality remains very high when the
harvesting is done properly.

By contrast, I know of nothing that degrades water quality or disrupts
forest hydrological function more than a stand-replacing wildfire. The
fact that this truth rarely makes news &#8211; save for the flash
floods that follow many wildfires - is your failing, because as
communicators it is your job to dispel myths and to publicly challenge
misstatements of fact. Yet few in the Forest Service do it because, as
many say, &#8220;we don&#8217;t want to take sides.&#8221;

This will sound unnecessarily harsh &#8211; and I don&#8217;t mean it
to be &#8211; but if you cannot bring yourself to side with the truth
you should get out of the public information business and let somebody
willing to defend science-based forestry take your place

If you detect great frustration in me, you are right. I am very
frustrated. But I hope you also hear some sadness in my voice, because
my heart aches for what is happening to you and to federal forests in
your care. But there isn&#8217;t much we can do this morning about
what is happening to our forests, so I want to focus on what is
happening to you. My hope is to buoy your spirits &#8211; and get you
to recommit your professional lives to what the United States Forest
Service stood for during its first 80-some years.

I was in the public relations business for many years before we
started Evergreen. And before I hung out my public relations shingle I
worked for newspapers as a reporter and later an editor. My degrees
are in journalism and broadcasting, so I know something about the
business you are in and the challenges you face daily. I also know
some of the same people you know. John Marker is a good friend and
colleague. We talk frequently. He knows I am here today &#8211; and
some of what I will share with you comes from his many years in the
Forest Service. More of what I will share comes from Phil Aune,
another Forest Service veteran who is also both a good friend and a

For the past 15 months I have been involved in Project Protect, a
grass roots campaign designed to support the Bush
Administration&#8217;s forest health initiatives. We have published
four issues of Evergreen in support of the President&#8217;s hopes for
pulling the West&#8217;s great forests back from the brink of
ecological collapse. I have also spoken widely on the need for
Congress to immediately fund science-based thinning and forest
restoration programs on physical scales large enough to be
ecologically and economically meaningful. While we still have some
distance to go, there is solid evidence that the public understands
both the problem and the solution.

Let me tell you a bit about the results of focus group work
we&#8217;ve done over the last year in Washington, D.C., Denver,
Sacramento, Memphis, Portland and here in Phoenix. In Memphis, Al
Gore&#8217;s back yard, 25 voters &#8211; including 12 that voted for
Mr. Gore and 12 that voted for Mr. Bush &#8211; were briefed on the
underlying causes of the nations&#8217; forest health crisis, then
given an opportunity to discuss management options ranging from doing
nothing to implementing a comprehensive long-term thinning and
restoration program. At the close of discussion they were asked to
vote for or against restoration. The vote was 23-2 for restoration.

After the vote was taken, Mr. Gore&#8217;s supporters were told that
President Bush &#8211; a president they did not vote for &#8211;
supported forest restoration. Did any of them want to change their
vote? Not one Gore supporter wanted to change his or her vote.

They were then told that logging and timber companies might profit
from doing the restoration work. Again, did any of Mr. Gore&#8217;s
supporters want to change his or her vote? Again, no one wanted to
reject restoration.

The same demographic profile, weighted a bit to reflect the larger
role women play in Oregon politics, yielded the same result in the
Portland focus group. But there were three added surprises. First,
participants made the direct connection between extremist
environmentalists, timber sale appeals and litigation. Second, they
also believe that judges should give equal weight to the short-term
risks and long-term benefits associated with forest restoration. And
finally, while there was strong support for thinning near communities,
there is equal support for forest thinning in watersheds and wildlife
habitats that lie well beyond the urban interface.

I suspect these focus groups results come as a great surprise to many
of you. I say this because, as an organization, the Forest Service is
not acting like it knows where the public mindset lies today. Why else
would you continue to apologize for what you perceive to be past
mistakes &#8211; an apology that I frankly think is unnecessary. Why
apologize for the strategically vital role that the Forest Service has
played in housing a growing and prosperous nation? Why apologize for a
forest policy- making process over which you have absolutely no

If you owe the country an apology at all it is for being less than
candid about the underlying causes of the wildfire crisis that
threatens the West&#8217;s forests and communities. And contrary to
what some allege past harvesting activity has little to do with this
crisis. Exclusion of fire &#8211; a policy that continues to enjoy
wide public support &#8211; is a factor; but in my opinion, the real
problem has been our failure to replace socially unacceptable wildfire
regimes with stand management programs designed to hold fire, insects
and diseases within what ecologists call &#8220;the range of natural
variability&#8221; &#8211; the quite wide variation in the frequency
and scale of disturbance regimes that have shaped and reshaped the
nation&#8217;s forests through time.

I know politics often trumps the truth, but if you expect the public
to respect and trust you it is vital that you tell the truth &#8211;
the whole unvarnished truth. And if someone stands in your way
I&#8217;d suggest you take your complaint to the Chief. He gets paid
to handle unpleasant situations. The buck stops on his desk.

I say this knowing full well that there was a time when one of your
main sources of grief was the sawmill owner down the road who needed
logs. Try to remember that it was the federal government that wooed
the industry&#8217;s decades of investment in milling and logging
technology that now clutters auction yards across the West. Try also
to remember that I don&#8217;t know a single mill owner who would
knowingly endorse a forest plan wherein harvest exceeds growth. But
plenty of people all over the country know that mortality now exceeds
both growth and harvest by wide margins on several western National
Forests. The public&#8217;s inner sensibilities are offended by this
fact, and well they should be. How some in the Forest Service can talk
about sustainability knowing full well that in many forests in their
care trees are dying faster than they are growing is beyond me. Even
people who don&#8217;t know beans about forestry or ecosystems can
sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with this situation.

Significantly, and without fanfare, the timber industry has undergone
profound change since the federal timber sale program collapsed.
Contrary to environmentalist claims, there isn&#8217;t much of a
market for large logs anymore. Most mills don&#8217;t want them. Their
future lies in converting high quality, small diameter logs &#8211;
harvested mainly from private forests - into technologically advanced
engineered wood products: laminated veneer lumber, oriented strand
board and a host of other dimension and panel products with far higher
performance standards than traditional sawn lumber or plywood. If you
have time to visit a housing development under construction here in
the Phoenix area, please do so. You will be astonished by what you

Something else has changed too. Most mills that survived the collapse
of the federal timber sale program aren&#8217;t interested in doing
business with the Forest Service anymore. Your prospects are too
uncertain &#8211; and they know it. Until the appeals and litigation
mess is unwound, if I can be, you aren&#8217;t going to find many
customers for your trees or your biomass. And no lender in his right
mind is going to lend money to a startup business on your verbal
promise of a stable and adequate supply of fiber. A mutually
beneficial business relationship that the federal government spent a
near century nurturing has gone up in smoke &#8211; both literally and

I think you need to talk publicly about this predicament, because
taxpayers have a right to know what a mess we all have on our hands
now. As I&#8217;ve said so many times, minus technologically advanced
processing infrastructure and robust markets for products made from
small diameter trees, restoration forestry will remain a distant
dream. Which means your job will continue to consist largely of
announcing body counts: 10,000 acres burned here, 100,000 acres
incinerated there. Sooner or later, someone in this room is going to
make it to the Big Dance: a one million acre firestorm accompanied by
horrific loss of life.

The San Diego colossus was just a warm-up. And I don&#8217;t think
press relations were handled as well as they might have been. I know
it was a big fire with lots of early confusion, didn&#8217;t hear
anyone challenge the environmentalist claim that it was &#8220;just a
brush fire.&#8221;

What about the more than 3,000 homes that were destroyed? What about
the 22 people who lost their lives? What about the thousands whose
lives turned upside down by this tragedy?

The &#8220;just a brush-fire&#8221; assertion is absurd beyond words.
There are hundreds of aerial photographs on the Internet showing
thousands of acres of dead and dying forests in the San Bernardino
National Forest and the Lake Arrowhead area. Millions of TV watchers
know this wasn&#8217;t a brush fire. But the claim went unchallenged.

How nice it would have been if Alan Houston had been there help you
&#8211; and to remind us all that when we leave forests to nature, as
so many seem to want to do, we get whatever nature serves up, which
can be pretty devastating at times. But with forestry we have options,
and a degree of predictability not found in nature.

Or Alston Chase, to recall what he told me 13 years ago when I asked
him what the lesson was in Playing God In Yellowstone, his blockbuster
book tracing the history of modern day radical environmentalism.
He&#8217;s what he said: &#8220;The lesson in Playing God is that
there is no such thing as leaving nature alone. People are part of
creation. We do not have the option of choosing not to be stewards of
the land. We must master the art and science of good stewardship.
Unfortunately, a good many environmentalists still do not understand
that the only way to preserve nature is to manage nature.&#8221;

Or Wally Covington &#8211; whose environmental credentials are above
reproach &#8211; and who has spent years telling all of us that the
federal government must immediately implement thinning and restoration
programs on a scale many times larger that the in vogue pilot projects
that are themselves hamstrung by layers of self-defeating regulation.

And how nice if forest restoration could have spoken for itself.
Across the West there are many examples of restoration work begun
before anyone had ever heard of restoration forestry. My favorite is
the Boise Basin Experimental Forest north of Boise, Idaho. There you
can bear witness to the remarkable ecological benefits of a thinning
and prescribed fire strategy launched by the Forest Service nearly 40
years ago. The same wonder can be observed on adjacent Boise Cascade
timberland. The agency and the company learned from one another as
they went along.

Watching the reports from San Diego, I could not help but recall the
Tylenol scare of the early 1970&#8217;s. The manner in which McNeil
Laboratories promptly handled what would otherwise have been a
disaster is considered a classic in good public relations. Rather than
publicly deny that Tylenol bottle caps weren&#8217;t tamper proof, the
company admitted the problem and &#8211; in a matter of hours -
removed every bottle of the painkiller from every shelf in every drug
and grocery store in the nation.

That same opportunity to perform masterfully in the face of adversity
awaits every person and every organization &#8211; including the
United States Forest Service. But you have to tell the truth, the
whole, unvarnished truth. And you have to tell it promptly.
Don&#8217;t wait for someone to drag it out of you. Your adversaries
can&#8217;t possibly distrust you anymore than they already do, and
the public will admire you for your candor and courage.

Which brings me to my main point &#8211; to the main reason why I flew
down here from Montana to talk with you. It is this: I fear the Forest
Service &#8211; an organization I have admired greatly since childhood
- is squandering its once unassailable public credibility by failing
to recognize how profoundly the political landscape has changed in
recent years. Forestry &#8211; once singularly synonymous with
harvesting timber &#8211; has become a quality of life issue.

Perhaps it is the lingering memory of the 2000 fire season that
finally turned the tables. I don&#8217;t know. But the public finally
gets it, finally makes the direct connection between stand-replacing
wildfires and horrific negative environmental impacts on air and water
quality, fish and wildlife habitat, old growth forests it treasures
and abundant year-round recreation opportunity.

Yet the Forest Service continues to operate in another world on
another plain &#8211; one on which it finds it necessary to apologize
for things it did not do, for events that occurred at a time when the
public&#8217;s forestry priorities were also on another plain. Stop
doing this to yourselves. No good can come of it. The public has
driven on. Its&#8217; top priorities are on protecting what is and
could be, not what was and will never be again. In a figurative sense,
you are standing in front of a 300-foot wall of flames talking about
how you are protecting old growth and endangered species. It
isn&#8217;t credible.

In a recent Wall Street Journal Commentary Bob Nelson asked if perhaps
the time has come to abolish the Forest Service, to create a new
streamlined federal agency by integrating the Forest Service, Bureau
of Land Management and other agencies responsible for managing the
public&#8217;s land-related assets &#8211; its timber, minerals,
recreation and energy resources.

A few years ago Roger Sedjo said much the same thing in an interview
in which he told me he did not believe the Forest Service still
produced a product the public recognized. He made a good point. Are
big wildfires and the mop-ups that follow your last remaining
products? I hope not, but it has become increasingly difficult for the
public to figure out what you do.

Maybe it is time for a super-agency, but merging the Forest Service
and the BLM without fixing the litigation mess we&#8217;re in would be
tantamount to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We&#8217;d
still sink to the bottom. No less an outspoken authority than my good
friend Jack Ward Thomas has said much the same thing &#8211; time and
time again in congressional testimony, public meetings, press
interviews and reports he&#8217;s written.

 But before we throw the Forest Service and the BLM on the trash heap,
I&#8217;d like to try something. I&#8217;d like to decentralize these
agencies &#8211; return power to the local level where men and women
like you can again become the community ambassadors you once were. How
many of you belong to a Rotary Club, a Chamber of Commerce or a
Kiwanis Club? When did you last walk into a local car dealership or
county commissioner&#8217;s office for no other reason but to
introduce yourself and make small talk? And by contrast, how many of
you spend most of your time going from one meeting to the next,
without ever stepping out of your cloistered work environment?

The bad news is that no one in the communities you are pledged to
serve knows you anymore. The good news is that it does not take an act
of Congress to change this. You can do it when you get home. Instead
of going to the office, go downtown.
 Decentralizing the Forest Service &#8211; pushing the decision making
process back down to the local level - would also pay big dividends in
at risk forests. Who better to make decisions about thinning and
harvesting and prescribed fire than those who work in District Ranger
offices and are most familiar with the ground in their care and the
communities they serve?

 If you want to know how we got so far away from this quite practical
idea, listen to the wisdom of Sally Fairfax. This is something she
wrote back in 1980 when, I believe, she was teaching in the College of
Natural Resources at the University of California.

&#8220;Far from achieving a rational decision-making process, RPA and
NFMA may well result in stalemate and indecision as the Forest Service
turns from managing land to simply overseeing a convoluted, ever more
complex set of Congressionally mandated procedures. The tradition of
land stewardship, if indeed it survived the 1950s and 1960s, may have
died in the 1970s. RPA and NFMA take the initiative from experienced
land managers &#8211; those revered people on the ground, the folks
who have lived with the land and their mistakes long enough to have
developed wisdom and a capacity for judgment &#8211; and gives it to
lawyers, computers, economists and politically active special interest
groups seeking to protect and enhance their own diverse positions.
This shift in initiative will result from the layers of legally
binding procedure that RPA and NFMA foist on top of an already complex
and overly rigid planning process. Constant procedural tinkering does
not, I fear, lead to efficiency or simplicity. Rather it promises a
proliferation of steps, sub-steps, appendices and diverticulae that
makes the Forest Service susceptible to the ultimate lawyer&#8217;s
malaise, the reification of process over substance.&#8221;

How on earth Sally saw this coming nearly 25 years ago is beyond me,
but she did.

But there is some good news, exciting news in fact, and it is this
excitement that I want to close on today, because I think your jobs
could be fun again. The excitement involves the Forest Products
Laboratory&#8217;s splendid small-wood research and marketing program
&#8211; a program we think so much of that we devoted an entire issue
of Evergreen to it. Here it is: &#8220;Giant Minds, Giant Ideas, The
USFS Forest Products Laboratory at Madison, Wisconsin.&#8221;

The Lab is producing a product the public will readily recognize and
eagerly support - a strategy that addresses the development of both
infrastructure and markets needed to fulfill the Bush
Administration&#8217;s forest restoration mission, a mission that you
now know enjoys very wide public support.

And you can help if you want to. The Evergreen Foundation and the Lab
are jointly sponsoring tours for community groups, entrepreneurs,
elected officials, loggers and mill owners who are interesting in
learning more about technologies for processing small diameter trees
as solid wood or biomass. We hope to start in January.

I will guess that there are people in the communities you serve that
would jump at the chance to tour the lab, jump at the chance to learn
more about some very hopeful manufacturing processes and marketing
strategies designed to pull forests and communities back from the
brink of economic, social and environmental collapse.

 &#8220;Giant Minds, Giant Ideas&#8221; is actually the second
Evergreen issue in which we have profiled entrepreneurs who are trying
to help the federal government develop profitable new markets for
small diameter trees and biomass. The first was &#8220;The New
Pioneers,&#8221; published about a year ago. It won the Society of
American Foresters National Journalism Award. And while we are very
proud of this award, we believe the real heroes in this story are the
men and women who are laying their life savings on the line in the
hope of making a positive difference in their communities and the
environment. The labs&#8217; fine cadre of scientists and marketing
specialists has helped every one of these visionaries.

You should all be very proud of the Forest Products Labs&#8217;
history of contribution to our society and the environment. And if you
don&#8217;t mind a suggestion from an old newspaperman, you should
shout this story to the high heavens. I think it embodies the best of
what is left of an organization that was once spoken of in the same
breath as the United States Marine Corps.

 The Lab is distributing copies of &#8220;Giant Minds, Giant
Ideas&#8221; and so are we. Try the Lab first if you want copies. They
won&#8217;t charge you but we will. Either way, I expect we&#8217;ll
run out and have to reprint, especially if you take it upon yourselves
to market this story in the communities you serve. Obviously, we hope
you&#8217;ll also beat the drum for our tours. We don&#8217;t have
exact dates set yet but we will soon. You&#8217;ll find information on
the Lab&#8217;s website and on ours, which is

 I am going to close this morning with verbatim comments from Phil
Aune and John Marker, whose combined Forest Service experience spans
nearly 70 years.

 First, Phil: &#8220;Generally speaking, most public information
officers tend to try to answer questions too politically. In other
words, how well will it sound in the political genre of the day?
Recognizing that they work for the Administration and generally have
to defend policy, they do a pretty good job of defending the policy of
the day &#8211; with one major exception. They come across as being
ashamed of managing forests. When they have to answer questions about
cutting trees, they come off with equivocations every time. They sound
like, &#8220;the devil made me do it.&#8221;

 Second, John: &#8220;While I realize that agency public relations
people are kept on a very short leash by the political commissars, and
an unfortunate statement made to the media brings instant correction,
these folks can still do good. They should seize every opportunity to
encourage the media and the public to look beyond the current
&#8216;dust up&#8217; to a bigger picture. This is especially
important in forest management, as we all well know. I find it
effective to talk and write about what forest legacy we leave to
future generations, our grand babies. And the most effective place to
do this is in the forests, not the conference room, especially around
a campfire. There is still magic in campfires.&#8221;

 Based on my 30 years in the business I will add this: Where truth
thrives hope abides. Where there is no truth, there is no hope. Good
public relations consists of speaking the truth and listening for
its&#8217; hopeful echo in the communities you serve.

Thanks for inviting me to join you this morning. 

Comment from poster: This article was sent to me by an FS friend who
lurks here fairly often. He's just "chicken" to post it

Larry,     not a right-winger and not a left-winger

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