Andy Stahl, the executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE) oversees the largest activist organization in the country devoted exclusively to forest management issues. FSEEE was founded a decade ago by former timber planner Jeff DeBonis, to create a safety net for Forest Service employees who blow the whistle on agency mismanagement and corruption.
When Stahl talks about the "Iron
Triangle" gripping the Forest Service for much of this century, he
says it's like the patronage of old Chicago
"Consider the paths
of two foresters hired by the agency at the same time. One believes
that logging is good, the other believes it is no more, nor no
less, important than other uses. The employee who says that logging
is good gets a bigger staff, more employees, more opportunities for
promotion, and the other guy ends up staff director of recreation,
a cul de sac post at best, with no budget, few support staff and
very little influence, or he left and went to work for the Park
Service," Stahl says.
For the last 30 years, he
says, this scenario has played out on every national forest with a
stick of timber to cut in the West.
But that may
be starting to change. This winter, FSEEE won a major battle for
free speech on behalf of Tongass National Forest ecologist Mary
Dalton. She was reprimanded for challenging timber sales in Alaska
that she believed were breaking federal environmental
As a staffer, Dalton had prepared a
biological report on the negative effects that clear-cutting would
have on several species of wildlife, but her analysis was not
included in the review which gave several sales the green light.
After appealing the sales, Dalton was transferred to a national
forest in Arizona.
The Forest Service justified
its actions by using a code, drafted originally at the behest of
the timber industry, which forbade agency experts from trying to
stop harmful management actions. When FSEEE brought this to the
attention of chief Mike Dombeck and highlighted it in the media,
the code was repealed. But Mary Dalton is still in Arizona;
regional forester Phil Janik has refused to revoke her punitive