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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

12
Retrenchment and Revolt, 1977-1992

The short-lived Carter administration gained a reputation for being sympathetic to environmentalism, although this was only true in a limited sense. Many of Carter's environmental initiatives self-destructed for lack of political finesse or fell victim to congressional opposition, as in the case of Carter's western water project "hit list."1Carter's four years did not represent a golden age of environmental politics. In fact, the New Right political resurgence that came to be known in 1981 as the "Reagan revolution" had actually become quite well established in many ways by the late 1970s. Carter's environmental initiatives, though blunted, served to galvanize a pro-business, anti-regulatory, conservative backlash; just as the Reagan administration in turn energized an environmental opposition. With the aid of a slight conservative majority in a polarized Congress, the Reagan administration made an all-out effort to turn back the tide of environmental reform that had been building for two decades and sided unabashedly with the lobbyists for the business interests. Reasserting wildly optimistic goals for timber production (the old figure of 20 bbf surfaced again the Reagan team in the Agriculture Department took specific, short-term steps to block environmental protection initiatives, such as ordering the Forest Service to increase road construction in roadless areas in order to eliminate the possibility of their being considered for wilderness at a future date, and ordering the relaxing of environmental protection standards in forest plans. Because of expanded requirements for public access to government information and decision making (greatly extended by RPA and NFMA), these top-down imposed initiatives could be easily brought into the light of day and crit

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