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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview
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7
The Fight to Protect Nontimber Values, 1953-1960

During the custodial era of national forest management, wildlife habitat, soil, water, and wilderness were preserved almost without effort. Lack of management was good management for these values. Suddenly, after World War Two, the custodians of the public's forests took advantage of new market opportunities and began intensive extraction of the timber resource affecting the quality of these other forest resources and values. Nontimber interest groups then had to organize to defend the environmental values they had traditionally enjoyed during the custodial era. The timber industry, however, had a head start in establishing influence in the forest policy arena. Shrewdly, conservation organizations (usually with Forest Service support) mimicked the tactics of the lumber lobby: just as industry had acquired federal subsidies for roads and below-cost sales, recreation advocates sought federal funds for recreation development; just as the national Timber Resources Review had documented the "need" for accelerated logging, a comprehensive wildlife and recreation plan unveiled by the Forest Service in 1957 documented the "need" for more attention to these latter two resources; and, finally, just as industry strove to disseminate the ideology that natural forests were undesirable, conservationists responded with their own intellectual defense of wilderness. Despite some Forest Service efforts to cultivate recreation and wildlife constituencies, these two groups felt increasingly marginalized. The mid-1950s marked a distinct watershed in relations between conservation groups and the Forest Service, as well as between two disparate wings of the conservation movement.

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