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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

audience chuckled, but Cliff's talk, "Multiple Uses on National Forests," did little to assuage the concerns of noncommercial interest groups. Reflecting the high yield production ethos, Cliff defined multiple use management as "the integrated development and use of all the resources and values of the land to the fullest possible extent." But then he seemed to contradict himself. "Timber production is given priority over other uses on the most important areas of commercial forest land, with recreation, livestock grazing, and wildlife being integrated as fully as possible without undue interference with the dominant use."58 The problem, to recreation and wildlife advocates and to towns dependent on clean water from national forest watersheds, was that intensive management had not lived up to its promise in mitigating the negative effects of forest development. Also, areas subjected to it (commercial forest land) kept enlarging in response to market pressures. The Forest Service seemed always to find timber production to be the appropriate dominant use wherever there was a demand for it.

Noncommercial interest groups accordingly grew distrustful of the Forest Service's claimed commitment to multiple use. Picking up on the concept of "dominant use" -- as applied by foresters to timberlands -- some recreation advocates called for the zoning of national forests into areas emphasizing different dominant uses. For example, Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society, who also spoke at the AFA Forest Congress, argued that multiple-use management "should be applied in consistence with the zoning principle." Specifically in reference to wilderness, he continued, zoning would allow the administrator "to devote a particular area to a special purpose and yet maintain it within his multiple use forest."59 The agency opposed such zoning proposals as an impingement on its management flexibility, not admitting that designating "commercial timberland" areas on the national forests accomplished the same thing. In practice, agency leaders argued for the need to preserve "flexibility" most often during debates over wilderness designations. That is why eventually environmental groups pushed Congress to legislatively zone areas of the national forests for noncommercial purposes and thus take away the agency's flexibility.


Conclusion

The Forest Service found itself in an increasingly uncomfortable position in the Eisenhower era. Although it threw itself wholeheartedly into timber

-129-

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