The current policy of the U.S. Forest Service has lost direction. Our forests are dying and burning at an increasing rate and are not producing enough income from this vast wealth we call our national forests to properly manage their health.
Our nation is in "economic crisis" and Grant County's unemployment was 15.9 percent last month and growing. The current USFS budgets are in a death spiral and no one seems to recognize that the USFS has lost the focus of why it and the national forests were created
President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 at the home of Gifford Pinchot stated: "you can never afford to forget for one moment what is the object of forest policy. Primarily that object is not to preserve forests because they are beautiful, though that is good in itself; not to preserve them because they are refuges for the wild creatures of the wilderness - though that too is good itself - but the primary object of forest policy as of the land policy of the United States is the making of prosperous homes, is part of the traditional policy of home-making of our country. Every other consideration comes as secondary."
Roosevelt was elaborating upon the Organic Act which when passed in 1897 defined the purpose of the Forest Reserves, having been created in 1891.
As President Roosevelt stated during his 1904 State of the Union address: "Forest reserves are created for two principal purposes. The first is to preserve the water supply ... The second reason for which forest reserves are created is to preserve the timber supply for various classes of wood users. Among the more important of these are settlers under the reclamation act an other acts, for whom cheap accessible supply of timber for domestic uses is absolutely necessary."
He also stated: "The creation of a forest service in the Department of Agriculture will have fore its important results: First - A better handling of all forest work. Second - The reserves themselves, being handled from the point of view of the man in the field, instead of the man in the office. Third - Within a comparatively short time the reserves will become self-supporting. And, they can and should be offset by returns from the national forests' important source of revenue to their government."
Current U.S. Forest Service regulation maintains these objectives. Section 2402 of the current Forest Service Manual (FSM) states: "The broad objectives of forest management are to cultivate and maintain tree stands in a manner that promotes and achieves a diverse pattern of vegetation that best meets the needs of people now and in the future. Specific objectives for managing the forest resource of National Forest System lands are:
1. To provide a continuous supply of National Forest System timber for the use and necessities of the citizens of the United States.
2. To provide, so far as feasible, an even flow of National Forest System timber in order to facilitate the stabilization of communities and opportunities for employment.
Remember we are in an economic crisis in this nation and specifically Grant County is on the verge of extreme economic restructuring and here is how our USFS responds in a news release January 9, 2009:
"As many of you are aware the Forest Service may have the opportunity to be part of the 2-3 year Economic Stimulus Plan proposed by President-Elect Obama. The Forest Service has responded to requests from legislators that describe opportunities to create jobs through natural resource and infrastructure work on the national forests and grasslands."
The news release continues that job creation would include: hazardous fuels reduction (on both federal and nonfederal land); facilities reconstruction (recreation, administrative sites, bridges, roads, dams, fish passages, etc.), and wood-to-energy grants that will focus on assisting the development of alternative energy through increased use of biomass resulting from restoration activities.
What happened to the objectives in the current FSM 2402: "To provide a continuous supply of National Forest System timber for the use and necessities of the citizens of the United States?" And "to provide, so far as feasible, an even flow of National Forest System timber in order to facilitate the stabilization of communities and opportunities for employment?"
Why doesn't the Forest Service propose to increase the supply of timber to the industries of the United States and specifically those in Grant County to a level that these industries can continue to operate and provide jobs, provide economic activity, provide community stability and a source of wealth for the citizens of the United States in general?
The bottom line in Grant County is that the Malheur National Forest must sell and harvest an absolute minimum of 50 million board feet of merchantable timber - not just culls, firewood, Christmas trees and poles - for the industry in Grant County to survive. It is up to us as citizens to take this fight to our congressmen and senators because the USFS has lost direction.
King Williams is the president of King Inc.