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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

establish timber priority. McArdle, in fact, had flatly stated that the 1897 Act's priorities only applied to the establishment of new national forests and not to their subsequent management. The point was debatable. But industry lobbyists did not want to debate, they wanted a clear pronouncement that timber production was the priority function of the national forests. What should the NLMA do? Accept the bill as written? Try to seek amendments in the Senate? Nelson's minutes recorded the decision as follows: "It was felt that further efforts to seek clarification of timber and water as basic purposes of national forests would be construed by Congress and the Forest Service as an objection to the legislation. Therefore, it was decided that the industry had no alternative except to support the bill as amended."47Bernard Orell of Weyerhaeuser apparently struggled to convince a critical mass of industry moderates to override the hardliners and endorse the legislation. Edward Crafts, who orchestrated Forest Service lobbying activities, said Orell went "way out on a limb" to get industry to back the measure and deserves substantial credit for its passage.48

Members of Congress, not surprisingly, heaped praise on the act. Catherine D. May ( R-WA) predicted the legislation "will be another milestone in the wise, orderly, and thoughtful management of these public properties." RepresentativeRobert Barry ( R-NY) called MUSY "one of the most important pieces of legislation that has come before this House since I have been a member."49 Ironically, however, the main significance of the law proved to be its insignificance. Due partly to the actions of Congress itself, management of the national forests went forward in a manner that was anything but wise, orderly, thoughtful, and sustainable.


Conclusion

MUSY can be considered the last major victory for the Forest Service in its struggle to retain full discretionary control over national forest management (discretion within budget constraints, of course). After 1960, legislation became increasingly prescriptive. The act further symbolized the continued hegemony of the expanding pie ideology among politicians and agency leaders. For many of the Depression and World War Two generation, the commitment to full utilization was visceral. Representative Harley Staggers, the sponsor of the Forest Service MUSY bill in 1958, spoke for a large number of his contemporaries when he said: "When the supply of natural

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