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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

centennial of the national forests, from which issued a proceedings pamphlet titled, Land Stewardship in the Next Era of Conservation. In the preface, Al Sample of the American Forestry Association observed:

Shortcomings in natural resource management in the global environment as well as at home have caused many Americans to re-examine the concepts of natural resource conservation and stewardship that seemed to have served us well in the past. . . . We are now beginning to recognize forests as far more than just warehouses of goods maintained for human use and consumption. . . . The concepts of sustained yield and multiple use, which have served us well over the past century, are gradually being rewritten in terms of sustainable ecosystem management. The focus is less on guaranteeing a continuous flow of products and more on maintaining or improving resource conditions so as not to leave forest ecosystems diminished from what they were when they came under our care.57

While appearing to be a scientific or technical debate, this is fundamentally a policy debate -- for which science alone cannot provide an answer. Every prescription for forest management is imbued with values and perceptions and assumptions. National forest policy is partly an ideological issue, partly biological, partly economic, partly technical, and wholly political.


Conclusion

These two somewhat artificially constructed paradigms of the new forestry and the old forestry -- the ecologist and the agronomist -- are convenient summaries of the great divergence in perspectives characterizing the debate over forest policy and management. There are innumerable positions between these two paradigms and outside these paradigms. The two presented here simply represent the kind of philosophical disjunction that underlies much of the acrimony behind debates over how the national forests should be managed. They symbolize the role of ideology in public policy debates and the philosophical foundations of conflict. Both paradigms were relevant in the 1940s and remain so in the 1990s (and, indeed, have been with us for centuries in various forms).

Although the terms of the debate have changed little, the public's approval of tree-farming on the national forests and its faith in industrial

-25-

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