Another hatchet job

  Dear HCN,


Your title "Fallen Forester" in the December 21 issue is unfortunate. It leads one to conclude that Jim Nelson is in some way tainted goods. To the contrary, he is a model of the passion, intellect and gumption the Forest Service needs to cultivate to accomplish its difficult mission.


More fitting titles would have been "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" or "Another Hatchet Job in the USFS." A question mark after Fallen Forester would have set the stage better.


History is full of predatory behavior within bureaucracies. The superannuated dilettantes and professional automatons of most large organizations serve as the champions of mediocrity. What Nelson and others in the Forest Service have learned is that change-agents pay a personal price for the fire in their bellies.


The outfit is adept at self-destructive behavior. In the mid "70s, Ted Schlapfer, then regional forester for the Pacific Northwest Region, was openly discussing the need to modify timber-management practices. He favored the concepts articulated by Aldo Leopold and others that considered systemic implications of our actions.


His ideas resonated and started to catch on. To quiet him down, he was instructed to move to Washington, D.C. He chose retirement instead. A quintessential "Timber Beast" replaced Ted and the message was clear. "Let's not trouble ourselves with new-age thinking while we get out the cut." A different response in the "70s may have helped us avoid the spotted owl issue.


Few human systems reward visionaries and leaders that are ahead of their time. While corporate rhetoric urges folks to strive for a vibrant tomorrow, a gelatinous mass within does its very best to stifle extraordinary efforts to do so.


Yes Jim Nelson made a mistake. It was believing in what he was doing enough to expedite it in every LEGAL way possible. He's always been a barrier buster and his past behavior has alienated some folks. It was only a matter of time before someone, with more allegiance to process than product, got their feelings hurt and mobilized the whistleblowing act to whip him into submission.


If in fact there were only "some procedural mistakes that are really pretty technical" and "a lot of this is internal, bureaucratic, procedural rigmarole," then Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics and the Forest Service owe Jim Nelson a very public apology.





Jim Webb


Monte Vista, Colorado





High Country News Classifieds
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • OWN A THRIVING MOUNTAIN GUIDE SERVICE.
    Eastern Sierra guide service for sale to person with vision & expertise to take it onwards. Since 1995 with USFS & NPS permits. Ideal for...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...