Forest Service Chief Details His Agency's `Analysis Paralysis'. (Interior)

By Paige, Sean | Insight on the News, July 29, 2002 | Go to article overview

Forest Service Chief Details His Agency's `Analysis Paralysis'. (Interior)


Paige, Sean, Insight on the News


U.S. national forests are aflame in what already is shaping up to be one of the most hellacious summer wildfire seasons in memory. But the only federal agency that can do anything about it can't do anything about it, according to the man in charge. Why? Because it is so gummed-up by procedural red tape and lawsuits from environmental groups that virtually all efforts actively to manage America's disease-ridden, fire-prone national forests have come to a halt.

The man on the hot seat is U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Dale Bosworth, who inherited a heck of a mess and has talked with admirable candor about the "analysis paralysis" infecting an agency that manages nearly 200 million acres of public land.

To illustrate his point, Bosworth recently released The Process Predicament, a report outlining the symbiotic relationship between procedural paralysis within USFS and the obstructionist tactics employed by environmental groups opposed to virtually all human meddling in the forests. The report provides numerous case studies in which both have conspired to harm forests, and shows why those who claim to care about nature most may be the single biggest obstacle to caring for it in a crisis.

One case it doesn't highlight, but might have, is that of Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. In 1999 a proposal to thin out dangerously fire-prone stands was appealed and challenged in court by the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. That fact is largely beside the point today, after large parts of the forest (and nearby towns) were engulfed in the recent conflagrations in that state. …

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