A Conspiracy of Optimism: Management of the National Forests since World War Two

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

requested by the Forest Service for timber sales be granted, adding, "the Forest Service should certify this amount is sufficient to administer sales up to the allowable cut on the national forests and that mature, harvestable timber will not be withheld from the market because of insufficient funds to service sales."87

This initiated a pattern of full industry support for Forest Service timber sale budget requests that has continued unabated to the present day. It also initiated a pattern of expectation by Congress that its timber appropriations would result in firm timber harvest quotas. Eventually Congress would come to use the annual appropriations process overtly to set its own politically configured timber harvest targets, regardless of Forest Service management plans, and in spite of conflicting policies of sustained yield, multiple use, and environmental protection.88


Conclusion

During World War Two and the years immediately following, the Forest Service found itself in a strikingly new environment in which the national forests were suddenly in high demand. Interest groups, including loggers, ranchers, wildlife managers, recreationists, and others, began laying competing claims to forest resources and leaning on the agency to accommodate them. The agency felt ambivalent about these new interest groups, sometimes viewing them as valuable allies and other times as troublesome antagonists. It quickly discovered, however, that the best way to encourage supportive alliances and avoid antagonisms was to acknowledge the validity of everyone's claims and try to satisfy demands to the greatest degree possible. Satisfying demands usually required capital investments in such things as roads, livestock developments, and recreation facilities; and the main sources of capital for these investments were timber sales, grazing fees, and direct appropriations from Congress. With go percent of the professionals in the agency trained as foresters at that time, selling timber met no organizational obstacles and provided substantial revenues that in turn stimulated more silvicultural investments. Furthermore, the agency discovered that politicians would readily consent to federal investments that brought immediate economic stimulation, as logging and road contruction did, and so it learned to tie its appropriations requests to economic production goals. This proved to be an ominous development, as the Forest Service slowly became

-80-

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