'We want the public lands to be in the backyard of the little guy'

  • Chris Wood

    U.S. Forest Service photo

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

Chris Wood is senior policy advisor to Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck:

"I've been on a fee demonstration area on a national forest and absolutely befuddled by how I was supposed to get a permit to use an area on a Saturday. I literally was in a fee-use area and wanted to hike, found out it was a fee-use area and was told to go back to the ranger station to get a permit and to pay for it, and the station's closed. I think we hit a lot of snafus like that early on. It's the start-up problems of running any business. We've had our fair share, if not more of them.

"A lot of our funding stream historically flowed from the harvest of merchantable trees. As our timber-sale program has declined by about 70 or 75 percent within a decade, the agency has been forced to look for other areas to generate revenues to keep programs that we think are important alive. A lot of people would attribute sinister motives to this, and I'm not smart enough to understand what they might be. But I do know that basic common sense is, you've got increasing use, you've got flat appropriations; what do you do? What are our options?

"If this thing turns into building a bunch of mini-resort areas for lifestyles of the rich and famous, we've failed. We want the public lands to be the backyard of the little guy. We don't want them to be the playground of the wealthy.

"But if we can administer this program in a way that keeps a steady supply of income going back into the project area, and if we're plowing at least 80 percent of the income into the project, and we're not skimming it for overhead - if we prove that we do that, then I think a lot of the concerns that you're hearing will go away."

Copyright © 2000 HCN and Hal Clifford

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