We may be seeing the devolution of the environmental movement

  • Undersecretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons

    Jon Christensen

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Undersecretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons is the presidential appointee to whom the chief of the Forest Service reports.

Jim Lyons: "All these environmental groups have signed on against the Quincy Library Group bill because they object to legislating how the national forests are run. And I agree. The last thing we want to do is dictate by statute how any one forest should be managed.

"The administration is supporting this pilot effort to see how it works. But we are not backing an extension of this. There is enough micromanagement now. We need more flexibility, not less.

"This pilot represents a threat to the national environmental leadership and its capacity to dictate the terms of the agreement on the national scale. We may be seeing the devolution of the environmental movement to the local scale, and the national groups are not quite sure how to handle it. I think they are very concerned about Quincy Library Groups popping up all over the place. It is a legitimate concern. We don't want to manage national forests based solely on local consensus.

"I've had a lot of contact with the Quincy Library Group - I've been involved almost from day one. I know they've been frustrated by the Forest Service. It's an organization steeped in a professional tradition and in science. Then the Quincy Library Group, some members with professional credentials and some without, comes in and says: "We want you to do it this way."

"Should the Forest Service follow its existing plans, or should they turn things over to the local decision-making body? They stuck with the letter of the law.

"I was part of the (1994) dialogue (along with former Chief Jack Ward Thomas) that said to the local forest supervisors, "Work with them." But you had a couple of forest supervisors who were more focused on process than solution. What I had in mind would have been a little more responsive and timely. I wanted them to test what the group had in mind - reduce fire risk, reduce fuel loads. The Quincy Library Group wanted a forest that was a little less of a fire trap. The problem was an agency that was so stuck on process it couldn't solve a problem.

"As for the group, I don't think it's a front for industry. I don't think Linda Blum and Michael Jackson have been duped by industry. Not at all. They have invested tremendous energy to protect their forest."

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