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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

4
Forestry, Freedom, and Fiscal Conservatism, 1949-1952

National forest politics cannot be divorced from broader political culture. Nature, unfortunately, does not serve as an anchor to which political whims are tethered. Because forestry is a long-term affair requiring consistency, and politics is a short-term affair requiring constant compromises, the two make terrible business partners. Partisan political culture continually impinges on Forest Service activities inhibiting multiple-use, sustained-yield management. The Korean War and an anti-New Deal conservative backlash had a profound impact on the national forests between 1949 and 1952, especially in budget negotiations. Political relations in these years were not exceptional, however. Throughout the postwar era, Congress consistently supported Forest Service efforts to sell more timber without simultaneously supporting the rehabilitation activities necessary to make the increased harvests sustainable.


The Setting during Truman's Second Four Years

The year 1949 marked the beginning of Truman's first duly elected term as president, although he had already served essentially a full term since Roosevelt's death in 1945. That year also heralded the return of a Democratic majority in Congress, narrowly elected on Truman's short coattails. The Republicans of the 80th Congress ( 1947-48) enjoyed only the briefest tenure at the helm of Congress before Democrats regained the positions of leadership. Despite the enviable situation this put the Democrats in, the party's nominal leader, Truman, still had trouble getting his domestic proposals through. On many issues Republicans and southern Democrats had

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