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Ray Ring, Andy Stahl and the Clinton Roadless Rule

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felicep | Jan 06, 2010 10:35 AM

Ray Ring’s response to Andy Stahl’s letter (12-21 & 1-4 edition) taking exception to a point in Ray’s article on the Clinton Administration’s roadless area rulemaking ( 11-9 edition) was not adequate. While there are partisans within the Forest Service on each “side” of the roadless debate, anyone who works closely with the agency knows that its management levels overwhelmingly retain and support the Forest Service’s long-standing bias against any action which closes land to commercial exploitation - including the Clinton Roadless Rule. Therefore it is implausible to imply that pro-roadless protection and anti-roadless protection intimidation of underlings was equally practiced. 

If you want to understand the Forest Service, follow the money. You will find that information on how budgets are developed is the most difficult information to extract from Forest Service managers. The anti-land protection bias within Forest Service organizational culture is tied to that budget process which continues to be dominated by the timber sale program. In order to build their organizations and retain staff positions, district rangers and forest supervisors must compete for funds with other management units; competition to get out the cut  - and thereby to secure a larger budget - is the primary form this competition takes. Until these budget incentives change, anti-land protection bias will continue as a prime feature of Forest Service organizational culture.

It follows that the single most effective way to reform Forest Service organization culture is to change the budget incentives inherent in the timber sale program. Ending the timber sale program, however, does not mean an end to national forest logging. Freed from the need to generate timber sales sweet enough to attract commercial timber buyers, Forest Service managers could truly use logging as a tool for forest restoration. The resulting logs with commercial value could then be sold separately.

If this reform were instituted, Forest Service managers would loose their anti-land protection bias in time. But so long as budget incentives reward those who produce the largest volume of commercial timber sales the anti-land protection bias within Forest Service management culture will continue.  

Jack Ward Thomas did nothing to change that bias; Mike Dombeck tried to change it and – if he had been granted another 10 years as chief – he might have succeeded. What is most disturbing is that the Environmental Establishment shows no interest in pressuring the Obama Administration to make the needed changes. That establishment appears more interested in cutting deals that fast track timber sales in exchange for rock and ice wilderness designation. That's a pity; only with the Environmental Establishment on board would it be possible to make fundamental changes in Forest Service budget incentives and thereby change the organization's dominant anti-land protection bias. 

regional differences
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Jan 06, 2010 11:08 AM
Hi Felice -- You and Andy are based in the last of the Forest Service timber country -- northern California and the Pacific Northwest. The agency cuts almost no timber in the inland Rockies and the Southwest anymore. If the agency had to rely on timber receipts in most of the West, it would have a greatly reduced staff and overall presence. In that sense, I think you and Andy are writing based on history rather than the current reality.

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