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

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

8
Multiple Use and Sustained Yield: Debated and Defined, 1955-1960

Conflicts between user groups made public relations difficult for the Forest Service. The lumbering, grazing, recreation, wildlife, and water interests whom the Forest Service sought mightily to serve repaid the agency's efforts with vituperation. Increasingly, each constituent user group hammered the agency for failing to provide for their needs, and attempted to redefine the agency's policy rhetoric to their own advantage. For example, the timber industry adopted a definition of "sustained yield" that meant maximum feasible production of timber, and a definition of "multiple use" that implied a hierarchy of uses with timber dominant and others subordinate. The Wilderness Society and the Izaak Walton League proffered a nonhierarchical definition of multiple use that implied equal consideration of all uses -- water, wood, forage, wildlife, and recreation -- including wilderness recreation. Sustained yield, to this latter group, usually meant biological sustainability more than sustained economic production. The Forest Service's definitions of multiple use and sustained yield, which had previously been consistent with the industry view, grew more ambiguous in the late 1950s; that way agency leaders could retain the maximum amount of flexibility in applying them. As interest groups engaged in rhetorical and political battles to define these policies to their liking, the Forest Service struggled to keep control over both policy interpretation and management decision making.

One useful means for retaining control, ironically, involved accommodating user groups as much as possible. Lobbyists from the interest groups could take their complaints directly to political superiors in the administration or to Congress and convince them to demand certain actions from the

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