Magazine article American Forests

Forest Plans & Politics: Crisis in the Making

Magazine article American Forests

Forest Plans & Politics: Crisis in the Making

Article excerpt

In late August, John Mumma, Forest Service Regional Forester in Missoula, Montana, was asked to take a staff job in Washington, DC. The move was a result of his refusal to either meet the "timber-sale targets" set forth in forest plans or forece the amendment of those plans. As in all such situations, a lot of complex issues are involved, and there are no spotless heroes. But for the Forest Service to insist that this was a normal personnel move unaffected by political pressure is both false and disingenuous.

The intense controversy over the Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ), as the timber targets are officially known, and what they really mean in the context of the forest plans, is a major factor in the Mumma situation. By failing to address that issue directly, the Forest Service is in an untenable situation. It's very complicated, but here's a short explanation.

ASQs were calculated in forest plans as the maximum allowable timber harvest within the constraints imposed by other resource values and the need for sustainability. In many forests, particularly the 15 in Mumma's Region 1 (Montana, Idaho, Washington, and the Dakotas), planners were under pressure to set ASQs as high as possible. In doing so, they assumed that wilderness questions would be settled, and that then-roadless areas not set aside as wilderness would soon be available for timber harvest. That hasn't happened, so as much as one-third of the planned ASQ is still effectively off-limits in some forests. …

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