Pay to play -- with water
Regarding your recent story "Up in Smoke," while the Bushies may have outsourced with a particular vengeance, the Forest Service's downsizing actually started early in the Clinton years, with "government reinvention" (HCN, 12/22/08).
The story does touch upon a real dilemma for the Forest Service: Whatever it thinks its mission is, it does not have a reliable revenue stream related to that mission. And firefighting is eating the agency's lunch: Whenever the fire bell rings anywhere in the country, half the people and all the money go out the doors of local Forest Service offices.
In the Western states, specific water users who benefit from national forest watersheds should help provide agency funding to maintain those lands and pay for those ecosystem services. Such a funding stream could help support forest and watershed management.