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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

3
The End of the Forest Service's Custodial Era, 1945-1948

The seeds of modern industrial forestry and the management controversies of the present day germinated in the early post-World War Two era. There is a remarkable continuity of political relationships and resource problems during the years 1945-92. An in-depth look at this early period illuminates the genesis of challenges now facing the Forest Service. This early postwar era brought sustained economic prosperity and an unprecedented escalation in demand for national forest timber and outdoor recreation. The Forest Service welcomed the increase in demand from both sectors. These additional responsibilities would inevitably lead to increased agency funding and organizational security. Expanded and appreciative constituencies would provide the Forest Service an edge in the competitive struggle for a share of the federal budget pie. But demands for the resources of the national forests quickly outstripped the Forest Service's ability to accommodate them in an orderly and sustainable manner. Rather than discourage demand, however, the agency enthusiastically sought to increase supply through intensive management. This, of course, was a rational response for an organization seeking to expand its activities, budget, and political clout. A later Chief of the Forest Service, John McGuire, observed that all organizations pursue three main objectives: survival, growth, and autonomy.1 In pursuit of these objectives, the Forest Service promised to deliver upon demand goods and services to interest groups provided it received the fiscal, political, and social support it required.


National Forests in 1945: The Legacy of World War Two

During the Second World War the federal government forged the American economy into a war machine, infusing billions of dollars into industrial

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