JACKSON, Wyo. - A retired U.S. Forest Service supervisor urged agency personnel to move swiftly to transform an organization that has historically resisted change.
Tom Kovalicky, who began his Forest
Service career in Wyoming, said that Jack Ward Thomas, the
controversial new Forest Service chief, "wants to change bad
practices," but may already be in danger of being reined
"A window of change was opened by the
selection of Jack Ward Thomas," Kovalicky said at a conference on
ecosystem management which drew 200 Forest Service employees. "But
you'd better hurry up and crawl through that window because it's
starting to close already."
threatening Thomas are the entrenched career Forest Service
managers who have always "put their career first and the resources
last," Thomas said.
"Tell the truth and don't
change your professional opinion to satisfy your supervisor,"
Kovalicky said. "You don't need to be someone's lackey anymore.
It's up to you to tell the truth and obey the law."
Kovalicky called for decentralization of agency
power and a return to "decisions being made around the campfire."
Real power has been drawn to a "higher level,"
he said, because of the centralizing effect of computerized
Meaningful leadership at all
levels of the agency has deteriorated in the past decade, Kovalicky
said, again encouraging field personnel to move into the leadership
"Don't wait for explicit permission to
enact change," he said. "Your leaders aren't going to put up
maypoles and dance around them shouting, "Change, change, change."
Kovalicky, now an environmental consultant
living near Lewiston, Idaho, got an enthusiastic response from
Forest Service employees.
His remarks drew fire,
however, from Steve Mealey, Boise National Forest supervisor, and
former supervisor of the Shoshone National Forest in
Mealey said that Kovalicky had delivered
a "confrontational message" in counseling agency personnel to
"charge ahead and get something done."
that's what he said, he's wrong," Mealey said. "The right answer is
Mealey said he believes the Forest
Service has already "gone through a huge change, both culturally
Kovalicky was also asked about
adverse reaction to the Clinton administration's rangeland reform
Ranchers in Wyoming have complained
that the regulations are cumbersome and inappropriately involve
members of the general public in making decisions traditionally
made by ranchers.
"That's the price of playing
the game," Kovalicky responded.
"If they don't
want to pay the price they should get out of the game. Naturally,
they're upset. For 65 years no one has bugged them, and now they're
telling them to be a good steward."
writer works for the Casper Star-Tribune in Rock Springs,