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Overview:

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is responsible for managing public lands in the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands that cover more than 193 million acres of public land. The agency also oversees 80 experimental forests and ranges, five research and development stations, and 18 job corps centers. The USFS maintains and cultivates these lands for public use and national interests through various activities ranging from scientific research and development to firefighting, recreation maintenance, wilderness and wildlife protection, ecosystem management, and timber production. USFS policy was historically centered around timber production, but over the years has included the management of wilderness, fish and wildlife, grazing lands, minerals and geology, recreation, and water resources. In recent years, ecosystem management and sustainability have increasingly formed a basis for USFS policy. The agency has faced controversy for a number of years over its ties with the timber industry, fire management policy, logging practices, environmental and watershed protection practices, road building, wilderness and wildlife policies, and state/county ownership disputes. The current USFS Chief is Thomas Tidwell.

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History:

The U.S. Forest Service has a deep presence in the cultural history of the United States. Many Americans can easily recognize the iconic image of “Smokey Bear” used in the wildfire prevention public service campaign. Much of the timber provided by the USFS supported the post-World War II housing boom that gave rise to increased interest in leisure and recreational activities, including on lands managed by the USFS.

 

The earliest precursor to the USFS was the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry, which was established in 1881. The forestry division at first was charged with providing information about national forestlands by conducting assessments, however scientific experimentation was quickly added to the division’s responsibilities. The 1891 Forest Reserve Act, allowed President William Henry Harrison to establish the first U.S. timber land reserve. The Act was created in part to protect national forests from “timber thieves and profiteers.” Harrison first tasked these duties to the Department of the Interior’s General Land Office, which was renamed the Bureau of Forestry in 1901.

 

In 1905, Congress established the U.S. Forest Service, within the Department of Agriculture, transferring jurisdiction of the national forest reserves to the Agriculture Department. Early debate following the transfer focused on whether the Forest Service should remain in USDA—as its first director, Gifford Pinchot, advocated—or be transferred back to the Department of the Interior to create a broader Department of Conservation.

 

In 1907, national reserves were renamed National Forests, and the following year six district offices were created in the West region for administering fieldwork. By 1934, the USFS had 10 regions: Northern, Rocky Mountain, Southwestern, Intermountain, California, Northern Pacific, Eastern, Southern, North Central, and Alaska. These regions have remained to the present day, with the exception of the North Central region, which merged with the Eastern region in 1965.

 

In addition to protection, some have argued that an early mission of the USFS was also to supply timber, then considered a crop, to meet the material needs of an expanding national economy. With an increased demand for timber after World War II, the USFS instituted even more aggressive harvesting practices that lasted well into the 1980s when timber production saw a rise.

 

More recently, recreation and ecological sustainability have come to define the agency’s mission. This shift was evidenced by President Bill Clinton’s appointment of Jack Ward Thomas as USFS chief in 1993. Thomas was the first scientist to lead the agency, which had a long history of favoring foresters over scientists, putting budgets and timber cut counts ahead of sustainable forest management. Prior to his appointment, Thomas, was the agency’s senior wildlife biologist and had developed the plan to help protect the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest, where intensive logging of old-growth forests had driven the bird to near extinction. A federal judge would ultimately issue an injunction to stop the logging in 1991, and during his ruling he placed the blame at the feet of the USFS, accusing the agency of refusing to comply with laws protecting wildlife.

 

The USFS expanded under the Clinton Administration. Political lore has it that just before he left office, Clinton declared 60 million acres, or about one-third, of the national forest protected from road building and most logging activities, after he was shown a map the national forests under Teddy Roosevelt’s tenure alongside a measure of those under his own. The Bush administration attempted to reverse Clinton’s policy, but failed at the federal level. Instead, George W. Bush allocated greater jurisdiction over roadless lands to state governors.

Forest Service History

Center of Southwest Studies USFS Oral History Collection

The Great Agency Shakeout—the US Forest Service Buyout (by Barry Walden Walsh, American Forests)

The Bitterroot Controversy (by Martin Nie) (pdf)

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What it Does:

The U.S. Forest Service is a quasi-decentralized agency that delegates control to regional and district managers who carry out USFS policies to allow for flexibility and response to local needs. The 155 National Forests, which cover 8.5% of the country, are each broken into several ranger districts. There are more than 600 ranger districts with staffs ranging from 10-100. District rangers and other personnel manage lands for recreational uses such as camping and hiking. They also patrol wilderness areas, regulate grazing, and maintain vegetation and wildlife habitats. District rangers also provide support for the Office of the Forest Supervisor, which coordinates activities between districts, allocates budgets and provides technical support. Forest supervisors oversee the forests themselves, which typically cover a number of districts. There are nine regional offices, each run by a regional forester whose office is supported by forest supervisors and coordinates activities between national forests and Washington.

 

Forest Management at USFS provides guidance, administration, and support of the agency’s logging programs. The U.S. forest system includes more than 504 million acres that are considered productive timberlands, of which the USFS and other government agencies own and manage around 29%. National forests are the source of almost half of the country’s “soft wood” timber, such as pines and firs, and almost all of the nation’s old-growth forests. Soft wood timber is considered prime construction material, and old-growth timber commands higher market value. There is enormous pressure to cultivate this wood from the timber industry, which often influences Congress, which sets the USFS budget. The USFS is often allocated more funding if it allows more trees to be cut.

 

Other functions of the USFS include research and development, which takes place at a number of forest and range experiment stations overseen by seven regional research stations and the Forest Products Laboratory. Researchers with expertise in the biological, physical and social sciences, analyze and manage forest ecosystems where their findings inform agency management and policy decisions. Research and development includes the following major areas: Resource Use Sciences, Quantitative Sciences, Forest Management Sciences, and Environmental Sciences. There is also Forest Inventory and Analysis, which assesses America's forests and makes projections of how forests will appear in 10 or 50 years.

 

Additional USFS functions are tasked to USFS Fire and Aviation Management, which works to advance technologies in fire management and suppression and to maintain existing mobilization and tracking systems, and support federal, state, and international partners. The USFS State and Private Forestry division also provides funding and technical assistance to non-federal landowners, such as states, urban and community forests, tribes, and non-industrial private landowners. The agency also cooperates on a number of international projects with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the State Department, as well as non-governmental and aid organizations.

 

From the Web Site of the United States Forest Service

Budget Information

Climate Change

Congressional Directives

Contact Information

Discussion Papers

Employment

FAQs

Fire and Aviation Management

Forest Inventory and Analysis

Information Center

International

Kids Page

Manuals and Handbooks

Maps and Brochures

National Offices and Programs

Natural Inquirer

News Releases

Newsroom

Online Publications Research (“Treesearch”)

Passes and Permits

Photo Gallery

Projects and Policies

Pronunciation Guide for Forests and Grasslands

Publications

Recreational Activities

Regional Areas

Research and Development

Safety and Occupational Health

Speeches

State and Private Forestry

Store

Testimony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The largest funded USFS programs in the FY 2013 proposed budget include $1.9 billion for wildland fire management (forest fire preparedness and suppression activities), $793 million for resource restoration, and $1.6 billion for National Forest System activities. The budget also includes $9.6 million to fund an increase in personnel compensation and related employee pay costs.

 

From 2002-2012, the USFS paid $11.4 billion to contractors, according to a query of USAspending.gov. The top recipients and their percentage of all contracting include:

1. Bristol Bay Native Corporation                         $256,982,136  (2%) 

2. IBM                        $234,946,743  (2%) 

3. Aero Union Corporation                         $231,046,953  (2%) 

4. EAC Holdings, L.L.C.                         $174,269,339  (2%)   

5. Neptune Aviation Services, Inc.                         $143,512,458  (1%) 

 

The USFS has also given $4.2 billion in grants from 2002-2012 and $6.6 million in direct payments, according to USAspending.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Controversies:

Roadless Rule Controversy

Conservationists hailed a 2011 federal appeals court ruling that backed a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) ban on road development in national forests.

 

Enacted in 2001 under President Bill Clinton, the “Roadless Rule” was established to protect endangered species and reduce erosion on 50 million acres of land in National Forests. Timber and mining interests objected to the rule because they sought access to National Forest land for resource exploitation purposes.

 

Wyoming contended that the Forest Service exceed its authority in ordering the road ban, claiming only Congress could do such a thing—the Forest Service could not impose such a restriction on public forestland. The Colorado Mining Association also challenged the rule. Seven other states, plus ranching and off-road recreational groups claimed the Roadless Rule was unconstitutional.

 

But a panel of judges from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the Forest Service possessed the authority to restrict new roads in national forests.

 

“The Forest Service did not usurp Congressional authority because the roadless rule did not establish de facto wilderness,” the judges said in a decision written by Judge Jerome A. Holmes, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush.

 

 

 

 

In October 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially sided with environmentalists by rejecting the challenge to the Roadless Rule, leaving it intact.

Roadless Rule controversy and US Forests (Energy Rebels)

Colorado Mining Association Appeals Roadless Rule To Supreme Court (by Bruce Finley, Denver Post)

Eight States, Mining, Ranching And Motorized Groups Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Latest Roadless Rule Challenge (by Bob Berwyn, Summit County Citizens Voice)

Ruling Backs Forest Service in Limiting Roads in the Wild (by Kirk Johnson, New York Times)

US–Ruling Backs Limits to New Roads in the Wild (Climate Connections)

 

Fracking Ban in G.W. Forest

The USFS proposed in 2012 to ban the controversial method of drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the George Washington National Forest, which covers one million acres spread across Virginia and West Virginia.

 

The decision was part of a new management plan devised by the Forest Service, which considered comments from the public over how best to care for the public lands. Many Virginians who commented supported the idea of a fracking ban.

 

Concerns have been raised that fracking, which involves the injection of chemicals below the surface to dislodge pockets of natural gas, may contaminate groundwater supplies. It was reported that Virginians feared their water resources could become compromised if drilling was allowed.

 

About half of the George Washington National Forest sits atop the Marcellus shale formation, which contains large quantities of natural gas running from upstate New York to the Virginias.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. Residents Back Horizontal Drilling Ban in National Forest (Associated Press)

New Plan Would Restrict Drilling In George Washington National Forest (by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times)

Gas Drilling Ban In National Forest Sparks Debate (by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times)

 

Chemical Retardants Used to Stop Fires May Be Worse than the Fires

The USFS sparked a debate in 2011 over the use of fire retardants dropped from planes to extinguish forest fires.

 

Following a 2010 court ruling on the matter, and several years of foot-dragging on the matter, the agency proposed limiting the use of retardants near lakes and other waterways. The change was spurred by concerns that the chemicals (notably ammonium phosphates) in the retardant can adversely impact fish and other aquatic species. It also was found to promote the growth of noxious weeds.

 

Some homeowners, however, expressed concerns about limiting aerial fire-suppression efforts, fearing the change could make it harder to stop forest fires and result in more property losses. Forest Service scientist Jack Cohen found that houses can survive even some high-intensity fires if they’re constructed correctly and have a good buffer zone around them.

 

Wildfire News: Forest Service Considers Retardants; Seeing Red On Damage To Fish; Wenatchee Forest Heavily Doused (The Oregonian)

US Forest Service Proposes Reductions in Fire Retardant Use in Forest Fires (Los Angeles Times)

Fire Fight: Forest Service Explores Chemical Retardant Hazards (by Judith Lewis Mernit, High Country News)

 

USFS May Sell Controversial Land

Residents of northern Utah reacted warily to the USFS proposal in 2010 to sell small portions of land in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which is a patchwork of privately held and public lands.

 

The cause for concern stemmed from competing interests wanting access to a parcel of 5.75 acres. Developers saw it as an opportunity to build residential housing for Olympus Cove, while outdoor enthusiasts wanted some of the land reserved in order to expand access to a popular hiking trail (the Bonneville Shoreline Trail).

The Forest Service proposed that anyone buying the land would have to grant an easement for public access and limited trailhead parking along an existing road.

 

A second parcel of 30 acres was to be sold to create “SkiLink”—a gondola system—that would link two ski resorts. Proponents said it would ease vehicle traffic because currently there was no easy access between the two resorts (alpine-style ski lifts aren’t allowed on National Forest System lands). Opponents (especially archery hunters) said the SkiLink would harm elk habitats, as well as deer and grouse, reducing the number of animals that could be hunted.

Forest Service Proposes To Sell Its Olympus Cove Property (by Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News)

Olympus Cove Administrative Site Sale (U.S. Forest Service)

H.R. 3452 - Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act (OpenCongress)

 

Groups Sue Forest Service to Keep Motorized Vehicles Off Trails

Organizations representing outdoorsmen and conservationists filed separate lawsuits over a two-year period against the USFS to stop the use of motorized vehicles in public forests.

 

In 2011, the Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (CBHA) sued the Forest Service over road use in the San Juan National Forest. The CBHA claimed the agency had violated federal law in allowing off-road vehicle use on 14 trails covering 80 miles of land.

 

The Forest Service was accused of violating the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, the management plan for the San Juan National Forest, and Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 addressing motorized vehicle use on public lands.

 

A CBHA member said the group filed the litigation out of concern for improving habitat protection and expanding hunting opportunities.

 

Similar concerns were cited by an environmental group in 2012 when it sued the Forest Service over a proposed road in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed its lawsuit to stop the construction by autumn 2013 of an eight-mile road for ATV vehicles that threatened to harm nearby lands, waters, and wildlife.

Group Sues Forest Service Over Trails (Cortez Journal)

Ecological Impacts of Roads and Road Use on Wildlife Populations (U.S. Geological Survey)

Group Sues To Keep ATV Trail Out Of Forest (by Kendra Evensen, Idaho State Journal)

 

Controversy over Jesus Statue on Forest Service Land

Atheists called upon the USFS in 2011 to remove a six-foot statue of Jesus Christ from public lands in Montana.

 

Known as Big Mountain Jesus, the statue overlooks Flathead Valley at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. Because the land belongs to the Forest Service, the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the religious idol be taken down.

 

It later sued the agency claiming it was in violation of the constitutional principle separating church and state.

 

Religious and veterans organizations came to the statue’s defense, citing the fact it had stood in place for more than 50 years. A local chapter of the Knights of Columbus erected it to honor soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who fought in World War II.

 

Conservatives argued the statue should be viewed as a military memorial, not as a religious shrine.

 

At first, the Forest Service ordered its removal. But nearly 100,000 people, including several lawmakers, made it known that they favored keeping the statue in place. The Forest Service’s temporary solution was to give the Knights of Columbus a 10-year land-use permit for the spot on which Jesus stands.

Legal Battle Ignites Over Jesus Statue in Montana (by Dan Frosch, New York Times)

Whitefish Jesus Statue Controversy (by Dax VanFossen, KPAX)

Offended Atheists Strike Again (by David French, ACLJ)

 

McCain Stirs Controversy by Claiming that Illegal Immigrants Started Arizona Wildfires

The USFS found itself in the middle of controversial remarks by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) when he said in 2011 that illegal immigrants were responsible for starting forest fires.

 

During a significant blaze in the Southwest, McCain suggested unauthorized immigrants may have started some wildfires. McCain was publicly criticized for the remarks and accused of trying to score political points with anti-immigration voters.

 

McCain defended himself by saying he was merely conveying what the Forest Service had told him, that illegal immigrants do sometimes start fires that get out of control.

 

The USFS said there was no evidence indicating illegal immigrants were responsible for the Wallow fire that consumed three quarters of a million acres. But it was unclear if the agency had told McCain about other fires started by those crossing the border.

 

Later that year, the Government Accountability Office issued a report saying immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico were responsible for more than one-third of human-started wildfires in Arizona over a five-year period.

McCain "Puzzled" By Controversy Over Wildfire Comments (by Lucy Madison, CBS News)

Sen. John McCain Says He's 'Puzzled' by the Controversy over His Arizona Wildfire Remarks (by Katie Kramer, Syracuse.com)

NBC Blames Wildfires on 'Climate Change,' Then Accuses McCain of Using 'Tragedy for a Political Purpose' (by Kyle Drennen, NewsBusters)

McCain Immigrant Claim Stirs Controversy (UPI)

Illegal Immigrants Suspected in 30 Border Fires in Arizona (by Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times)

 

Federal Plan Announced to Protect Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining

In February 2011, the Obama administration announced a draft plan to protect one million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining for 20 years. The proposal, announced by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is one of four alternatives in the draft plan. Mining supporters say the move could prevent the creation of new jobs, while environmentalists say mining would harm the environment and adversely affect canyon tourism. In May 2009, the Bureau of Land Management had authorized several new uranium exploration permits near the Grand Canyon despite a congressional resolution the previous year barring new claims near the national park. In March 2008, three conservation groups filed a lawsuit to stop uranium exploration the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab National Forest granted British firm Vane Minerals approval to conduct exploratory uranium drilling on national forest lands along the park’s southern boundary with no public hearing and no environmental review. It was the first of five such projects slated for the area.

Interior Invites Public Input on Future Hardrock Mineral Development (Department of Interior)

Federal Plan Announced to Protect Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining (Grand Canyon National Trust)

Grand Canyon Mining Ban in the Works (Public News Service)

BLM Authorizes Grand Canyon Uranium Exploration (by Eric Bontrager, Greenwire for the New York Times)

Lawsuit Seeks to Block Uranium Mining at Grand Canyon (Environment News Service)

 

Consultant ERG in Controversy with Forest Service

Park County officials in Montana complained in 2011 about the consultant they hired to work on forestry plans developed by the U.S. Forest Service. The consultant, Ecosystems Research Group (ERG), was accused of stonewalling Dave Burke, a Park County commissioner, after he asked for information about ERG’s bills to the county.

 

ERG also was criticized for its representatives’ behavior at meetings with federal forestry and conservation officials. Forest supervisor Joe Alexander accused ERG representatives of disrupting discussions, leading to a call for the reps to have only limited roles at future meetings regarding revising forest plans.

Consultant in Controversy with Forest Service (by Penny Preston, KULR 8)

Park County Debates ERG bills (by Mark Heinz, Cody Enterprise)

Consultant To Draft County's Comments To Forest Service (by Martin Kidston, Billings Gazette)

 

Forest Service Scientists Enter the Natural Gas Well Drilling Controversy

A decision by the USFS to allow a single natural gas well on land set aside in West Virginia caused a noticeable impact on the local environment.

 

Agency officials authorized in 2007 the placement of the well and accompanying pipeline in the Fernow Experimental Forest. Four years later the Forest Service determined the project caused the loss of 1,000 trees, damaged roads, eroded the land, and left the area unusable for scientists studying the forest.

 

Three Forest Service scientists warned back in 2007 that the well could disturb local species and habitat. They tried to get the agency to conduct a legal review of the project, but were denied by their superiors.

Anatomy of a Gas Well: What Happened When a Well Was Drilled in a National Forest (by Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica)

The Story of A Gas Well that Was Drilled in a National Forest (by Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica)

 

Possible Compromise in Forest Service Approval of Ski Resort’s Use of Treated Sewage on Sacred Native American Mountain

In March 2010, a new proposal for artificial snow at an Arizona ski resort swaps reclaimed wastewater for more expensive potable water and came with a pledge from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help offset the cost. Under the proposal, the city of Flagstaff would allow reclaimed wastewater to percolate into the ground and be pumped for use at the Arizona Snowbowl instead of shipping the wastewater directly to the resort just outside Flagstaff. The proposal had the support of the resort’s owner and Navajo lawmaker Raymond Maxx. However, several American Indian tribes contend that spraying the San Francisco peaks with snow made from reclaimed wastewater would desecrate the mountain they hold sacred. But Arizona’s two U.S. senators called the proposal inappropriate and a waste of taxpayer money. In 2008, the Navajo Nation and other tribes lost a long legal battle when the U.S. Supreme Court turned down their final appeal against using treated wastewater to make snow. The tribes then filed suit against the USFS for failing to consider human health risks of ingesting artificial snow made with reclaimed wastewater. The USDA withheld permits for the construction of snowmaking equipment while trying to forge a compromise among the parties. However, despite the compromise, many Native American tribes continue to fight snowmaking on the resort, because it isn’t made from nature and they consider skiing on the slopes a sacrilege. In March 2012, the city of Flagstaff renewed the contract—through 2017—to sell treated wastewater to the resort, so the legal battle continues.

New Talks Change Ski Resort’s Snowmaking Source (Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press)

Native Americans Continue Fight To Block Snowmaking At Arizona Snowbowl (Onthesnow.com)

Arizona: City Of Flagstaff Administratively Renews Controversial Contract With Ski

Area For Wastewater Snowmaking (Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources)

 

Forestry Official Avoids Jail Time

In February 2008, U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, the Bush administration’s top forest official, avoided jail when a federal judge withdrew contempt of court charges and the threat of jail if Rey did not ground all fire retardant air tankers until the agency evaluated the environmental impact of the chemical slurry. Rey initially refused to comply with the order, but agreed to cooperate only when faced with the prospect of prison time. Rey had been ordered to have the Forest Service evaluate the environmental impacts of air-dropped ammonium phosphate fire retardants that are known to harm fish.

Ag Chief Cleared of Contempt (by John Cramer, Missoulian)

The Darth Vader of Forest Policy (by Jodi Peterson, The Goat Blog)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suggested Reforms:

USFS Rules to Reform Agency Management

An ambitious overhaul of Forest Service management of national forests was unveiled in 2011, much to the delight of environmentalists and to the consternation of the timber industry.

 

Representing the first bureaucratic makeover since the Reagan administration, the new rules focused on the strategy of “adaptive land management,” which allowed national forests managers to adjust for everything from climate change to timber needs to wildlife habitat to ecosystem management.

 

Conservationists, scientists, and members of Congress hailed the new policy, which emphasized forest restoration over timber harvesting.

 

Not surprisingly, logging companies were not happy with the proposed plan. Along with some local government officials and a group of former Forest Service employees, timber interests complained the rules would allow micromanaging from Washington D.C. Opponents preferred to give forest managers more leeway in managing their domains.

National Forest Rules Face Controversial Overhaul (by Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times)

Obama Administration Debating Care Of National Forests (by Erin Kelly and Elizabeth Bewley, Gannett News Service)

 

Transfer Forest Service to Department of the Interior

Many have called for USFS to be placed within the Department of the Interior—joining other resource agencies like Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management. The argument is that these agencies have overlapping domains, and keeping USFS a separate uniquely independent agency, makes policy coordination difficult.

The Perfect Firestorm: Bringing Forest Service Wildfire Costs under Control (by Randal O’Toole, Cato Institute)

The August Coup - U.S. Forest Service and Timber Policy (by Paul Rauber, Sierra magazine)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debate:

Should Sequoia Monument be Transferred to National Park Service from USFS?

Only 12 years old, the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California has been the focus of an intense debate between environmentalists and local officials over which federal agency should manage it.

 

Since President Bill Clinton established the monument in 2000, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been in charge. But conservationists have complained the agency has not adequately protected the forest of giant trees. They argue the area should be transferred to the National Park Service.

 

Should the Giant Sequoia National Monument be Transferred to the National Park Service? (by Jim Burnett, National Parks Traveler)

Debate over the transfer of Giant Sequoia National Monument to Park Service (by Sarah McIntyre, Daily Hiker)

 

Pro

Representative Sam Farr (D-California) and conservation groups claim the Forest Service has failed to properly manage the monument. They say the purpose of establishing the monument was to protect, restore and preserve the 33 giant sequoia groves located on 353,000 acres. But the Forest Service has allowed logging in the area, which critics say is unacceptable. That’s why the National Park Service should oversee the groves to ensure their future survival.

 

Let Park Service manage Giant Sequoia NM! (Forests Forever)

 

Con

Supervisors of Tulare County, where the monument is located, oppose the transfer to the Park Service. They dispute that too much logging has gone on in the monument, arguing some trees had to go in order to thin overgrown areas and prevent forest fires. Without this management, fires could have destroyed the giant sequoias. They also oppose the Park Service taking over because the change could mean more restrictions on biking, snowmobiling, hunting, and camping.

OPPOSE Park Service LAND GRAB in Sequoia National Forest (Save the Trails)

 

 

Fire Management Policy

USFS fire management policy has been a source of great debate in recent years. While one of the agency’s earliest missions was to protect forests from fire, there has been recent criticism about the agency’s effectiveness at managing fires and reducing the ecological consequences of forest fires. As a result of USFS policies, wildfires have gone from being high-frequency, low-intensity events, which provide sustainability for certain ecosystems, to low frequency, high intensity events that make suppression of them futile, writes University of Maryland Professor Robert Nelson in his book, A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service. Due to the prolonged absence of fire and the reduction in timber harvests, the abundance of dead and dying trees provide a high fuel load and conditions for high intensity fires that can cause enormous damage to soils, watersheds, fisheries, and other ecosystem components, Nelson argues. Many environmental groups that view natural fires as an integral part of ecosystem management, have also criticized fire-suppression efforts, claiming that it lacks scientific basis. Meanwhile, firefighters and residents who live on forest land lobby heavily for fire suppression policies.

A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the US Forest Service (by Robert H. Nelson, the Independent Review)  

Wildland Fires: A Historical Perspective (U.S. Fire Administration, Topical Fire Research Series) (pdf)

Forest Roads or Forest Fires? (by C.J. Buck, U.S. Forest Service, 1936) (pdf)

 

Clearcutting and Logging

Old-growth trees can net significant profits for a timber company and, although most are exported whole, many are processed by domestic mills, where communities have come to depend on national forest trees. Some local counties have even come to depend on the 25% of USFS gross timber sales they receive for essential services. Recent divestiture in timberlands worries communities dependent on the system. Environmentalists are also concerned and have scrambled to buy up lands and implement conservation efforts, at times even partnering with traditional adversaries, such as the timber industry, to practice sustainable ecological timber cultivation.

Clearcutting in the National Forests (by Adela Backiel and Ross W. Gorte, Congressional Research Service)

Controversy Over Clearcutting (by Gerald Williams, Forest History Society)

Logging debate is ‘bogus,’ nation’s chief forester declares (by Kathryn Stelljes, UC Berkeley News)

Back to the Garden: The Redemptive Promise of Sustainable Forestry, 1893-2000 (by Char Miller, Forest History Today) (pdf)

Traditional Forestry Hits the Wall: Excerpts of Interviews with F. Dale Robertson and George M. Leonard (Forest History Today) (pdf)

Top Forest Service lawyer to Become Timber Lobbyist (Associated Press)

Dead Wood: Reform of the U.S. Forest Service (by Glenn Hodges, Washington Monthly)

For-Sale Signs Pop up on U.S. Timberlands (by Laura Mandaro, Market Watch)

Timberlands in Turmoil (by Jane Braxton Little, American Forests)

Playground or Preserve? (by Nancy Watzman, Understanding Government) (pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Former Directors:

Abigail R. Kimball, 2007-2009

Dale N. Bosworth, 2001-2007

Michael P. Dombeck 1997-2001

Jack Ward Thomas 1993-1996

F. Dale Robertson 1987-1993

R. Max Peterson 1979-1987

John R. McGuire 1972-1979

Edward P. Cliff 1962-1972

Richard E. McArdle 1952-1962

Lyle F. Watts 1943-1952

Earle H. Clapp (Acting) 1939-1943

Ferdinand A. Silcox 1933-1939

Robert Y. Stuart 1928-1933

William B. Greeley 1920-1928

Henry S. Graves 1910-1920

Gifford Pinchot 1898-1910

Bernhard E. Fernow 1886-1898

Nathaniel H. Egleston 1883-1886

Franklin B. Hough 1876-1883

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Comments

Ann Mohr 6 months ago
I'm writing this in regards to the Corn Creek ramp project scheduled for repair August 20th, 2017. We secured a permit in the lottery from rec.gov to float the Main Salmon River in Idaho....(Salmon/Challis forest). This project was not mentioned when we put in for the lottery in January 2017. We just received notice last week of all the changes. Why during the permit season? No place to camp because many can't take another day off of work to put in upstream, no reserved camp spots, no place to park vehicles, and we can't launch from Cache creek in the morning because it's reserved for boaters coming off the middle fork. We are taking grandchildren and there are 2 big rapids up above Corn Creek we want to avoid. What about your liability? This project should be put off for at least until the permit season ends !
Tom Zanetti 2 years ago
I am a woodworker in Colorado. I have been turning wood bowls for a number of years and although the log has been treated and is dry, while the bowl is on the lathe it tends to split to a point where it is no longer usable. Is there any way to treat the wood to prevent this splitting. I do paint the ends of the log w/a prescribed treatment to prevent the log from splitting, but after I begin turning the bowl it is still splitting. I am currently turning an elm bowl from a tree that died in my yard. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Tom
Arna Merrell 3 years ago
To send a letter to Thomas Tidwell, what address would I use? Thank you.

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Founded: 1881
Annual Budget: $4.86 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 33,597 (FY 2013 Request)
Official Website: http://www.fs.fed.us/
United States Forest Service
Tidwell, Tom
Chief

Like those before him, Thomas Tidwell has risen up through the ranks of the U.S. Forest Service during his 32-year career before being appointed chief of the agency on June 17, 2009, by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

 
After growing up in Boise, Idaho, Tidwell graduated from Washington State University with a degree in wildlife and range management. He also attended classes at the University of Idaho.
 
He began his Forest Service career in the Boise National Forest, and eventually worked at eight different national forests in three regions. His roles have included working on a fire ground crew, as a forest supervisor, a district ranger, and in legislative affairs in the Washington office, where he worked on the National Fire Plan, the 2001 roadless rule and the Secure Rural Schools County Payments Act.
 
He was supervisor of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.
 
In 2006, Tidwell was appointed Deputy Regional Forester for Fire and Aviation Management, Recreation, Engineering, State and Private Forestry and Tribal Relations for the Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5).
 
The following year he was appointed Regional Forester for the Northern Region (Region 1), succeeding Gail Kimbell when she was appointed chief. The Northern Region includes 25 million acres in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota encompassing 12 national forests and four national grasslands.
 
In June 2009, Tidwell succeeded Kimbell again when he was appointed as chief of the Forest Service. He is the third consecutive person promoted from Region 1 Regional Forester to chief.
 
Tidwell and his wife, Kim, have one daughter.
 
Chief's Biography (U.S. Forest Service)
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Kimbell, Abigail
Previous Chief
A native of New England, Abigail R. Kimbell has served as the 16th (and first female) chief of the US Forest Service from February 5, 2007 until 2009.
 
Kimbell received a bachelor’s degree in forest management from the University of Vermont in 1974. She later earned a master’s in forest engineering from Oregon State University.
 
She began her federal career in Oregon with the Bureau of Land Management in 1974 and joined the Forest Service as a pre-sale forester in Alaska three years later. She then worked in Oregon as a logging engineer and a district planner. Kimbell served as a district ranger on the Colville National Forest (Kettle Falls, Washington) from 1985-1988 and on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (La Grande, Oregon) from 1988-1991.
 
She was forest supervisor of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from 1992-1997 and the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming from 1997-1999. From 1999-2002, Kimbell was forest supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche National Grassland (all in Colorado) as well as the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas. In 2002, Kimbell moved to USFS headquarters to begin her post as the associate deputy chief for the National Forest System. Under her tenure, Kimbell played a role in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, which was widely criticized by environmentalists as a give away to the timber industry. In 2003 Kimbell became the regional forester for the Northern Region (Montana).
 
To her numerous critics, Kimbell is known as a pro-timber placement and the person responsible for the largest reprisal action ever taken against agency whistleblowers. Under her watch as forest supervisor at the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, nearly half the agency’s staff was forced out during a standoff over concerns raised about USFS mismanagement, including violation of environmental laws. The controversy, which began in 1992 with Kimbell’s predecessor, included allegations of illegal timber sales and sweetheart concessions to favored timber companies; failure to meet reforestation commitments to restore habitat; and violation of wilderness protections and road construction through Native American sacred sites. In 1994, eight Bighorn employees wrote a letter to their regional forester in which they claimed that Kimbell’s predecessor had created a hostile work environment and was mismanaging the forest.
 
When Kimbell took office in 1997, she authored an agency reorganization that purged most of the original whistleblowers who had not yet been forced out by harassment or intimidation—in total, 30 of 44 employees who had raised concerns about mismanagement were purged from their jobs. Kimbell attributed the reorganization to necessary budgetary constraints, but in the end, the bureaucratic labor force at Bighorn increased from 74 to 108 employees between 1997 (when she took office) and 2003—and was marked by a trend of replacing environmental experts with office workers.
 
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) represented eight of the fired employees in a Whistleblower Protection Act lawsuit, and in 2003, after a prolonged investigation, the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that the act had been violated. The agency agreed to corrective action, including a $200,000 payment for damages, divided among the eight claimants and charges brought against the employees by Kimbell were dropped.
 
Letter to the Chief (by Richard Artley, Forest Magazine
Kimbell named head of U.S. Forest Service (By Sherry Devlin, Missoulian)
New chief faces same challenges (editorial, Missoulian)
Bosworth says he's leaving forests job (by Warren Cornwall,Seattle Times)
 
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Overview:

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is responsible for managing public lands in the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands that cover more than 193 million acres of public land. The agency also oversees 80 experimental forests and ranges, five research and development stations, and 18 job corps centers. The USFS maintains and cultivates these lands for public use and national interests through various activities ranging from scientific research and development to firefighting, recreation maintenance, wilderness and wildlife protection, ecosystem management, and timber production. USFS policy was historically centered around timber production, but over the years has included the management of wilderness, fish and wildlife, grazing lands, minerals and geology, recreation, and water resources. In recent years, ecosystem management and sustainability have increasingly formed a basis for USFS policy. The agency has faced controversy for a number of years over its ties with the timber industry, fire management policy, logging practices, environmental and watershed protection practices, road building, wilderness and wildlife policies, and state/county ownership disputes. The current USFS Chief is Thomas Tidwell.

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History:

The U.S. Forest Service has a deep presence in the cultural history of the United States. Many Americans can easily recognize the iconic image of “Smokey Bear” used in the wildfire prevention public service campaign. Much of the timber provided by the USFS supported the post-World War II housing boom that gave rise to increased interest in leisure and recreational activities, including on lands managed by the USFS.

 

The earliest precursor to the USFS was the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry, which was established in 1881. The forestry division at first was charged with providing information about national forestlands by conducting assessments, however scientific experimentation was quickly added to the division’s responsibilities. The 1891 Forest Reserve Act, allowed President William Henry Harrison to establish the first U.S. timber land reserve. The Act was created in part to protect national forests from “timber thieves and profiteers.” Harrison first tasked these duties to the Department of the Interior’s General Land Office, which was renamed the Bureau of Forestry in 1901.

 

In 1905, Congress established the U.S. Forest Service, within the Department of Agriculture, transferring jurisdiction of the national forest reserves to the Agriculture Department. Early debate following the transfer focused on whether the Forest Service should remain in USDA—as its first director, Gifford Pinchot, advocated—or be transferred back to the Department of the Interior to create a broader Department of Conservation.

 

In 1907, national reserves were renamed National Forests, and the following year six district offices were created in the West region for administering fieldwork. By 1934, the USFS had 10 regions: Northern, Rocky Mountain, Southwestern, Intermountain, California, Northern Pacific, Eastern, Southern, North Central, and Alaska. These regions have remained to the present day, with the exception of the North Central region, which merged with the Eastern region in 1965.

 

In addition to protection, some have argued that an early mission of the USFS was also to supply timber, then considered a crop, to meet the material needs of an expanding national economy. With an increased demand for timber after World War II, the USFS instituted even more aggressive harvesting practices that lasted well into the 1980s when timber production saw a rise.

 

More recently, recreation and ecological sustainability have come to define the agency’s mission. This shift was evidenced by President Bill Clinton’s appointment of Jack Ward Thomas as USFS chief in 1993. Thomas was the first scientist to lead the agency, which had a long history of favoring foresters over scientists, putting budgets and timber cut counts ahead of sustainable forest management. Prior to his appointment, Thomas, was the agency’s senior wildlife biologist and had developed the plan to help protect the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest, where intensive logging of old-growth forests had driven the bird to near extinction. A federal judge would ultimately issue an injunction to stop the logging in 1991, and during his ruling he placed the blame at the feet of the USFS, accusing the agency of refusing to comply with laws protecting wildlife.

 

The USFS expanded under the Clinton Administration. Political lore has it that just before he left office, Clinton declared 60 million acres, or about one-third, of the national forest protected from road building and most logging activities, after he was shown a map the national forests under Teddy Roosevelt’s tenure alongside a measure of those under his own. The Bush administration attempted to reverse Clinton’s policy, but failed at the federal level. Instead, George W. Bush allocated greater jurisdiction over roadless lands to state governors.

Forest Service History

Center of Southwest Studies USFS Oral History Collection

The Great Agency Shakeout—the US Forest Service Buyout (by Barry Walden Walsh, American Forests)

The Bitterroot Controversy (by Martin Nie) (pdf)

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What it Does:

The U.S. Forest Service is a quasi-decentralized agency that delegates control to regional and district managers who carry out USFS policies to allow for flexibility and response to local needs. The 155 National Forests, which cover 8.5% of the country, are each broken into several ranger districts. There are more than 600 ranger districts with staffs ranging from 10-100. District rangers and other personnel manage lands for recreational uses such as camping and hiking. They also patrol wilderness areas, regulate grazing, and maintain vegetation and wildlife habitats. District rangers also provide support for the Office of the Forest Supervisor, which coordinates activities between districts, allocates budgets and provides technical support. Forest supervisors oversee the forests themselves, which typically cover a number of districts. There are nine regional offices, each run by a regional forester whose office is supported by forest supervisors and coordinates activities between national forests and Washington.

 

Forest Management at USFS provides guidance, administration, and support of the agency’s logging programs. The U.S. forest system includes more than 504 million acres that are considered productive timberlands, of which the USFS and other government agencies own and manage around 29%. National forests are the source of almost half of the country’s “soft wood” timber, such as pines and firs, and almost all of the nation’s old-growth forests. Soft wood timber is considered prime construction material, and old-growth timber commands higher market value. There is enormous pressure to cultivate this wood from the timber industry, which often influences Congress, which sets the USFS budget. The USFS is often allocated more funding if it allows more trees to be cut.

 

Other functions of the USFS include research and development, which takes place at a number of forest and range experiment stations overseen by seven regional research stations and the Forest Products Laboratory. Researchers with expertise in the biological, physical and social sciences, analyze and manage forest ecosystems where their findings inform agency management and policy decisions. Research and development includes the following major areas: Resource Use Sciences, Quantitative Sciences, Forest Management Sciences, and Environmental Sciences. There is also Forest Inventory and Analysis, which assesses America's forests and makes projections of how forests will appear in 10 or 50 years.

 

Additional USFS functions are tasked to USFS Fire and Aviation Management, which works to advance technologies in fire management and suppression and to maintain existing mobilization and tracking systems, and support federal, state, and international partners. The USFS State and Private Forestry division also provides funding and technical assistance to non-federal landowners, such as states, urban and community forests, tribes, and non-industrial private landowners. The agency also cooperates on a number of international projects with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the State Department, as well as non-governmental and aid organizations.

 

From the Web Site of the United States Forest Service

Budget Information

Climate Change

Congressional Directives

Contact Information

Discussion Papers

Employment

FAQs

Fire and Aviation Management

Forest Inventory and Analysis

Information Center

International

Kids Page

Manuals and Handbooks

Maps and Brochures

National Offices and Programs

Natural Inquirer

News Releases

Newsroom

Online Publications Research (“Treesearch”)

Passes and Permits

Photo Gallery

Projects and Policies

Pronunciation Guide for Forests and Grasslands

Publications

Recreational Activities

Regional Areas

Research and Development

Safety and Occupational Health

Speeches

State and Private Forestry

Store

Testimony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The largest funded USFS programs in the FY 2013 proposed budget include $1.9 billion for wildland fire management (forest fire preparedness and suppression activities), $793 million for resource restoration, and $1.6 billion for National Forest System activities. The budget also includes $9.6 million to fund an increase in personnel compensation and related employee pay costs.

 

From 2002-2012, the USFS paid $11.4 billion to contractors, according to a query of USAspending.gov. The top recipients and their percentage of all contracting include:

1. Bristol Bay Native Corporation                         $256,982,136  (2%) 

2. IBM                        $234,946,743  (2%) 

3. Aero Union Corporation                         $231,046,953  (2%) 

4. EAC Holdings, L.L.C.                         $174,269,339  (2%)   

5. Neptune Aviation Services, Inc.                         $143,512,458  (1%) 

 

The USFS has also given $4.2 billion in grants from 2002-2012 and $6.6 million in direct payments, according to USAspending.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Controversies:

Roadless Rule Controversy

Conservationists hailed a 2011 federal appeals court ruling that backed a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) ban on road development in national forests.

 

Enacted in 2001 under President Bill Clinton, the “Roadless Rule” was established to protect endangered species and reduce erosion on 50 million acres of land in National Forests. Timber and mining interests objected to the rule because they sought access to National Forest land for resource exploitation purposes.

 

Wyoming contended that the Forest Service exceed its authority in ordering the road ban, claiming only Congress could do such a thing—the Forest Service could not impose such a restriction on public forestland. The Colorado Mining Association also challenged the rule. Seven other states, plus ranching and off-road recreational groups claimed the Roadless Rule was unconstitutional.

 

But a panel of judges from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the Forest Service possessed the authority to restrict new roads in national forests.

 

“The Forest Service did not usurp Congressional authority because the roadless rule did not establish de facto wilderness,” the judges said in a decision written by Judge Jerome A. Holmes, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush.

 

 

 

 

In October 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially sided with environmentalists by rejecting the challenge to the Roadless Rule, leaving it intact.

Roadless Rule controversy and US Forests (Energy Rebels)

Colorado Mining Association Appeals Roadless Rule To Supreme Court (by Bruce Finley, Denver Post)

Eight States, Mining, Ranching And Motorized Groups Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Latest Roadless Rule Challenge (by Bob Berwyn, Summit County Citizens Voice)

Ruling Backs Forest Service in Limiting Roads in the Wild (by Kirk Johnson, New York Times)

US–Ruling Backs Limits to New Roads in the Wild (Climate Connections)

 

Fracking Ban in G.W. Forest

The USFS proposed in 2012 to ban the controversial method of drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the George Washington National Forest, which covers one million acres spread across Virginia and West Virginia.

 

The decision was part of a new management plan devised by the Forest Service, which considered comments from the public over how best to care for the public lands. Many Virginians who commented supported the idea of a fracking ban.

 

Concerns have been raised that fracking, which involves the injection of chemicals below the surface to dislodge pockets of natural gas, may contaminate groundwater supplies. It was reported that Virginians feared their water resources could become compromised if drilling was allowed.

 

About half of the George Washington National Forest sits atop the Marcellus shale formation, which contains large quantities of natural gas running from upstate New York to the Virginias.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. Residents Back Horizontal Drilling Ban in National Forest (Associated Press)

New Plan Would Restrict Drilling In George Washington National Forest (by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times)

Gas Drilling Ban In National Forest Sparks Debate (by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times)

 

Chemical Retardants Used to Stop Fires May Be Worse than the Fires

The USFS sparked a debate in 2011 over the use of fire retardants dropped from planes to extinguish forest fires.

 

Following a 2010 court ruling on the matter, and several years of foot-dragging on the matter, the agency proposed limiting the use of retardants near lakes and other waterways. The change was spurred by concerns that the chemicals (notably ammonium phosphates) in the retardant can adversely impact fish and other aquatic species. It also was found to promote the growth of noxious weeds.

 

Some homeowners, however, expressed concerns about limiting aerial fire-suppression efforts, fearing the change could make it harder to stop forest fires and result in more property losses. Forest Service scientist Jack Cohen found that houses can survive even some high-intensity fires if they’re constructed correctly and have a good buffer zone around them.

 

Wildfire News: Forest Service Considers Retardants; Seeing Red On Damage To Fish; Wenatchee Forest Heavily Doused (The Oregonian)

US Forest Service Proposes Reductions in Fire Retardant Use in Forest Fires (Los Angeles Times)

Fire Fight: Forest Service Explores Chemical Retardant Hazards (by Judith Lewis Mernit, High Country News)

 

USFS May Sell Controversial Land

Residents of northern Utah reacted warily to the USFS proposal in 2010 to sell small portions of land in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which is a patchwork of privately held and public lands.

 

The cause for concern stemmed from competing interests wanting access to a parcel of 5.75 acres. Developers saw it as an opportunity to build residential housing for Olympus Cove, while outdoor enthusiasts wanted some of the land reserved in order to expand access to a popular hiking trail (the Bonneville Shoreline Trail).

The Forest Service proposed that anyone buying the land would have to grant an easement for public access and limited trailhead parking along an existing road.

 

A second parcel of 30 acres was to be sold to create “SkiLink”—a gondola system—that would link two ski resorts. Proponents said it would ease vehicle traffic because currently there was no easy access between the two resorts (alpine-style ski lifts aren’t allowed on National Forest System lands). Opponents (especially archery hunters) said the SkiLink would harm elk habitats, as well as deer and grouse, reducing the number of animals that could be hunted.

Forest Service Proposes To Sell Its Olympus Cove Property (by Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News)

Olympus Cove Administrative Site Sale (U.S. Forest Service)

H.R. 3452 - Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act (OpenCongress)

 

Groups Sue Forest Service to Keep Motorized Vehicles Off Trails

Organizations representing outdoorsmen and conservationists filed separate lawsuits over a two-year period against the USFS to stop the use of motorized vehicles in public forests.

 

In 2011, the Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (CBHA) sued the Forest Service over road use in the San Juan National Forest. The CBHA claimed the agency had violated federal law in allowing off-road vehicle use on 14 trails covering 80 miles of land.

 

The Forest Service was accused of violating the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, the management plan for the San Juan National Forest, and Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 addressing motorized vehicle use on public lands.

 

A CBHA member said the group filed the litigation out of concern for improving habitat protection and expanding hunting opportunities.

 

Similar concerns were cited by an environmental group in 2012 when it sued the Forest Service over a proposed road in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Idaho. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed its lawsuit to stop the construction by autumn 2013 of an eight-mile road for ATV vehicles that threatened to harm nearby lands, waters, and wildlife.

Group Sues Forest Service Over Trails (Cortez Journal)

Ecological Impacts of Roads and Road Use on Wildlife Populations (U.S. Geological Survey)

Group Sues To Keep ATV Trail Out Of Forest (by Kendra Evensen, Idaho State Journal)

 

Controversy over Jesus Statue on Forest Service Land

Atheists called upon the USFS in 2011 to remove a six-foot statue of Jesus Christ from public lands in Montana.

 

Known as Big Mountain Jesus, the statue overlooks Flathead Valley at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. Because the land belongs to the Forest Service, the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the religious idol be taken down.

 

It later sued the agency claiming it was in violation of the constitutional principle separating church and state.

 

Religious and veterans organizations came to the statue’s defense, citing the fact it had stood in place for more than 50 years. A local chapter of the Knights of Columbus erected it to honor soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who fought in World War II.

 

Conservatives argued the statue should be viewed as a military memorial, not as a religious shrine.

 

At first, the Forest Service ordered its removal. But nearly 100,000 people, including several lawmakers, made it known that they favored keeping the statue in place. The Forest Service’s temporary solution was to give the Knights of Columbus a 10-year land-use permit for the spot on which Jesus stands.

Legal Battle Ignites Over Jesus Statue in Montana (by Dan Frosch, New York Times)

Whitefish Jesus Statue Controversy (by Dax VanFossen, KPAX)

Offended Atheists Strike Again (by David French, ACLJ)

 

McCain Stirs Controversy by Claiming that Illegal Immigrants Started Arizona Wildfires

The USFS found itself in the middle of controversial remarks by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) when he said in 2011 that illegal immigrants were responsible for starting forest fires.

 

During a significant blaze in the Southwest, McCain suggested unauthorized immigrants may have started some wildfires. McCain was publicly criticized for the remarks and accused of trying to score political points with anti-immigration voters.

 

McCain defended himself by saying he was merely conveying what the Forest Service had told him, that illegal immigrants do sometimes start fires that get out of control.

 

The USFS said there was no evidence indicating illegal immigrants were responsible for the Wallow fire that consumed three quarters of a million acres. But it was unclear if the agency had told McCain about other fires started by those crossing the border.

 

Later that year, the Government Accountability Office issued a report saying immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico were responsible for more than one-third of human-started wildfires in Arizona over a five-year period.

McCain "Puzzled" By Controversy Over Wildfire Comments (by Lucy Madison, CBS News)

Sen. John McCain Says He's 'Puzzled' by the Controversy over His Arizona Wildfire Remarks (by Katie Kramer, Syracuse.com)

NBC Blames Wildfires on 'Climate Change,' Then Accuses McCain of Using 'Tragedy for a Political Purpose' (by Kyle Drennen, NewsBusters)

McCain Immigrant Claim Stirs Controversy (UPI)

Illegal Immigrants Suspected in 30 Border Fires in Arizona (by Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times)

 

Federal Plan Announced to Protect Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining

In February 2011, the Obama administration announced a draft plan to protect one million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining for 20 years. The proposal, announced by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is one of four alternatives in the draft plan. Mining supporters say the move could prevent the creation of new jobs, while environmentalists say mining would harm the environment and adversely affect canyon tourism. In May 2009, the Bureau of Land Management had authorized several new uranium exploration permits near the Grand Canyon despite a congressional resolution the previous year barring new claims near the national park. In March 2008, three conservation groups filed a lawsuit to stop uranium exploration the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab National Forest granted British firm Vane Minerals approval to conduct exploratory uranium drilling on national forest lands along the park’s southern boundary with no public hearing and no environmental review. It was the first of five such projects slated for the area.

Interior Invites Public Input on Future Hardrock Mineral Development (Department of Interior)

Federal Plan Announced to Protect Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining (Grand Canyon National Trust)

Grand Canyon Mining Ban in the Works (Public News Service)

BLM Authorizes Grand Canyon Uranium Exploration (by Eric Bontrager, Greenwire for the New York Times)

Lawsuit Seeks to Block Uranium Mining at Grand Canyon (Environment News Service)

 

Consultant ERG in Controversy with Forest Service

Park County officials in Montana complained in 2011 about the consultant they hired to work on forestry plans developed by the U.S. Forest Service. The consultant, Ecosystems Research Group (ERG), was accused of stonewalling Dave Burke, a Park County commissioner, after he asked for information about ERG’s bills to the county.

 

ERG also was criticized for its representatives’ behavior at meetings with federal forestry and conservation officials. Forest supervisor Joe Alexander accused ERG representatives of disrupting discussions, leading to a call for the reps to have only limited roles at future meetings regarding revising forest plans.

Consultant in Controversy with Forest Service (by Penny Preston, KULR 8)

Park County Debates ERG bills (by Mark Heinz, Cody Enterprise)

Consultant To Draft County's Comments To Forest Service (by Martin Kidston, Billings Gazette)

 

Forest Service Scientists Enter the Natural Gas Well Drilling Controversy

A decision by the USFS to allow a single natural gas well on land set aside in West Virginia caused a noticeable impact on the local environment.

 

Agency officials authorized in 2007 the placement of the well and accompanying pipeline in the Fernow Experimental Forest. Four years later the Forest Service determined the project caused the loss of 1,000 trees, damaged roads, eroded the land, and left the area unusable for scientists studying the forest.

 

Three Forest Service scientists warned back in 2007 that the well could disturb local species and habitat. They tried to get the agency to conduct a legal review of the project, but were denied by their superiors.

Anatomy of a Gas Well: What Happened When a Well Was Drilled in a National Forest (by Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica)

The Story of A Gas Well that Was Drilled in a National Forest (by Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica)

 

Possible Compromise in Forest Service Approval of Ski Resort’s Use of Treated Sewage on Sacred Native American Mountain

In March 2010, a new proposal for artificial snow at an Arizona ski resort swaps reclaimed wastewater for more expensive potable water and came with a pledge from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help offset the cost. Under the proposal, the city of Flagstaff would allow reclaimed wastewater to percolate into the ground and be pumped for use at the Arizona Snowbowl instead of shipping the wastewater directly to the resort just outside Flagstaff. The proposal had the support of the resort’s owner and Navajo lawmaker Raymond Maxx. However, several American Indian tribes contend that spraying the San Francisco peaks with snow made from reclaimed wastewater would desecrate the mountain they hold sacred. But Arizona’s two U.S. senators called the proposal inappropriate and a waste of taxpayer money. In 2008, the Navajo Nation and other tribes lost a long legal battle when the U.S. Supreme Court turned down their final appeal against using treated wastewater to make snow. The tribes then filed suit against the USFS for failing to consider human health risks of ingesting artificial snow made with reclaimed wastewater. The USDA withheld permits for the construction of snowmaking equipment while trying to forge a compromise among the parties. However, despite the compromise, many Native American tribes continue to fight snowmaking on the resort, because it isn’t made from nature and they consider skiing on the slopes a sacrilege. In March 2012, the city of Flagstaff renewed the contract—through 2017—to sell treated wastewater to the resort, so the legal battle continues.

New Talks Change Ski Resort’s Snowmaking Source (Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press)

Native Americans Continue Fight To Block Snowmaking At Arizona Snowbowl (Onthesnow.com)

Arizona: City Of Flagstaff Administratively Renews Controversial Contract With Ski

Area For Wastewater Snowmaking (Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources)

 

Forestry Official Avoids Jail Time

In February 2008, U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, the Bush administration’s top forest official, avoided jail when a federal judge withdrew contempt of court charges and the threat of jail if Rey did not ground all fire retardant air tankers until the agency evaluated the environmental impact of the chemical slurry. Rey initially refused to comply with the order, but agreed to cooperate only when faced with the prospect of prison time. Rey had been ordered to have the Forest Service evaluate the environmental impacts of air-dropped ammonium phosphate fire retardants that are known to harm fish.

Ag Chief Cleared of Contempt (by John Cramer, Missoulian)

The Darth Vader of Forest Policy (by Jodi Peterson, The Goat Blog)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suggested Reforms:

USFS Rules to Reform Agency Management

An ambitious overhaul of Forest Service management of national forests was unveiled in 2011, much to the delight of environmentalists and to the consternation of the timber industry.

 

Representing the first bureaucratic makeover since the Reagan administration, the new rules focused on the strategy of “adaptive land management,” which allowed national forests managers to adjust for everything from climate change to timber needs to wildlife habitat to ecosystem management.

 

Conservationists, scientists, and members of Congress hailed the new policy, which emphasized forest restoration over timber harvesting.

 

Not surprisingly, logging companies were not happy with the proposed plan. Along with some local government officials and a group of former Forest Service employees, timber interests complained the rules would allow micromanaging from Washington D.C. Opponents preferred to give forest managers more leeway in managing their domains.

National Forest Rules Face Controversial Overhaul (by Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times)

Obama Administration Debating Care Of National Forests (by Erin Kelly and Elizabeth Bewley, Gannett News Service)

 

Transfer Forest Service to Department of the Interior

Many have called for USFS to be placed within the Department of the Interior—joining other resource agencies like Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management. The argument is that these agencies have overlapping domains, and keeping USFS a separate uniquely independent agency, makes policy coordination difficult.

The Perfect Firestorm: Bringing Forest Service Wildfire Costs under Control (by Randal O’Toole, Cato Institute)

The August Coup - U.S. Forest Service and Timber Policy (by Paul Rauber, Sierra magazine)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debate:

Should Sequoia Monument be Transferred to National Park Service from USFS?

Only 12 years old, the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California has been the focus of an intense debate between environmentalists and local officials over which federal agency should manage it.

 

Since President Bill Clinton established the monument in 2000, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been in charge. But conservationists have complained the agency has not adequately protected the forest of giant trees. They argue the area should be transferred to the National Park Service.

 

Should the Giant Sequoia National Monument be Transferred to the National Park Service? (by Jim Burnett, National Parks Traveler)

Debate over the transfer of Giant Sequoia National Monument to Park Service (by Sarah McIntyre, Daily Hiker)

 

Pro

Representative Sam Farr (D-California) and conservation groups claim the Forest Service has failed to properly manage the monument. They say the purpose of establishing the monument was to protect, restore and preserve the 33 giant sequoia groves located on 353,000 acres. But the Forest Service has allowed logging in the area, which critics say is unacceptable. That’s why the National Park Service should oversee the groves to ensure their future survival.

 

Let Park Service manage Giant Sequoia NM! (Forests Forever)

 

Con

Supervisors of Tulare County, where the monument is located, oppose the transfer to the Park Service. They dispute that too much logging has gone on in the monument, arguing some trees had to go in order to thin overgrown areas and prevent forest fires. Without this management, fires could have destroyed the giant sequoias. They also oppose the Park Service taking over because the change could mean more restrictions on biking, snowmobiling, hunting, and camping.

OPPOSE Park Service LAND GRAB in Sequoia National Forest (Save the Trails)

 

 

Fire Management Policy

USFS fire management policy has been a source of great debate in recent years. While one of the agency’s earliest missions was to protect forests from fire, there has been recent criticism about the agency’s effectiveness at managing fires and reducing the ecological consequences of forest fires. As a result of USFS policies, wildfires have gone from being high-frequency, low-intensity events, which provide sustainability for certain ecosystems, to low frequency, high intensity events that make suppression of them futile, writes University of Maryland Professor Robert Nelson in his book, A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service. Due to the prolonged absence of fire and the reduction in timber harvests, the abundance of dead and dying trees provide a high fuel load and conditions for high intensity fires that can cause enormous damage to soils, watersheds, fisheries, and other ecosystem components, Nelson argues. Many environmental groups that view natural fires as an integral part of ecosystem management, have also criticized fire-suppression efforts, claiming that it lacks scientific basis. Meanwhile, firefighters and residents who live on forest land lobby heavily for fire suppression policies.

A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the US Forest Service (by Robert H. Nelson, the Independent Review)  

Wildland Fires: A Historical Perspective (U.S. Fire Administration, Topical Fire Research Series) (pdf)

Forest Roads or Forest Fires? (by C.J. Buck, U.S. Forest Service, 1936) (pdf)

 

Clearcutting and Logging

Old-growth trees can net significant profits for a timber company and, although most are exported whole, many are processed by domestic mills, where communities have come to depend on national forest trees. Some local counties have even come to depend on the 25% of USFS gross timber sales they receive for essential services. Recent divestiture in timberlands worries communities dependent on the system. Environmentalists are also concerned and have scrambled to buy up lands and implement conservation efforts, at times even partnering with traditional adversaries, such as the timber industry, to practice sustainable ecological timber cultivation.

Clearcutting in the National Forests (by Adela Backiel and Ross W. Gorte, Congressional Research Service)

Controversy Over Clearcutting (by Gerald Williams, Forest History Society)

Logging debate is ‘bogus,’ nation’s chief forester declares (by Kathryn Stelljes, UC Berkeley News)

Back to the Garden: The Redemptive Promise of Sustainable Forestry, 1893-2000 (by Char Miller, Forest History Today) (pdf)

Traditional Forestry Hits the Wall: Excerpts of Interviews with F. Dale Robertson and George M. Leonard (Forest History Today) (pdf)

Top Forest Service lawyer to Become Timber Lobbyist (Associated Press)

Dead Wood: Reform of the U.S. Forest Service (by Glenn Hodges, Washington Monthly)

For-Sale Signs Pop up on U.S. Timberlands (by Laura Mandaro, Market Watch)

Timberlands in Turmoil (by Jane Braxton Little, American Forests)

Playground or Preserve? (by Nancy Watzman, Understanding Government) (pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Former Directors:

Abigail R. Kimball, 2007-2009

Dale N. Bosworth, 2001-2007

Michael P. Dombeck 1997-2001

Jack Ward Thomas 1993-1996

F. Dale Robertson 1987-1993

R. Max Peterson 1979-1987

John R. McGuire 1972-1979

Edward P. Cliff 1962-1972

Richard E. McArdle 1952-1962

Lyle F. Watts 1943-1952

Earle H. Clapp (Acting) 1939-1943

Ferdinand A. Silcox 1933-1939

Robert Y. Stuart 1928-1933

William B. Greeley 1920-1928

Henry S. Graves 1910-1920

Gifford Pinchot 1898-1910

Bernhard E. Fernow 1886-1898

Nathaniel H. Egleston 1883-1886

Franklin B. Hough 1876-1883

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Comments

Ann Mohr 6 months ago
I'm writing this in regards to the Corn Creek ramp project scheduled for repair August 20th, 2017. We secured a permit in the lottery from rec.gov to float the Main Salmon River in Idaho....(Salmon/Challis forest). This project was not mentioned when we put in for the lottery in January 2017. We just received notice last week of all the changes. Why during the permit season? No place to camp because many can't take another day off of work to put in upstream, no reserved camp spots, no place to park vehicles, and we can't launch from Cache creek in the morning because it's reserved for boaters coming off the middle fork. We are taking grandchildren and there are 2 big rapids up above Corn Creek we want to avoid. What about your liability? This project should be put off for at least until the permit season ends !
Tom Zanetti 2 years ago
I am a woodworker in Colorado. I have been turning wood bowls for a number of years and although the log has been treated and is dry, while the bowl is on the lathe it tends to split to a point where it is no longer usable. Is there any way to treat the wood to prevent this splitting. I do paint the ends of the log w/a prescribed treatment to prevent the log from splitting, but after I begin turning the bowl it is still splitting. I am currently turning an elm bowl from a tree that died in my yard. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Tom
Arna Merrell 3 years ago
To send a letter to Thomas Tidwell, what address would I use? Thank you.

Leave a comment

Founded: 1881
Annual Budget: $4.86 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 33,597 (FY 2013 Request)
Official Website: http://www.fs.fed.us/
United States Forest Service
Tidwell, Tom
Chief

Like those before him, Thomas Tidwell has risen up through the ranks of the U.S. Forest Service during his 32-year career before being appointed chief of the agency on June 17, 2009, by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

 
After growing up in Boise, Idaho, Tidwell graduated from Washington State University with a degree in wildlife and range management. He also attended classes at the University of Idaho.
 
He began his Forest Service career in the Boise National Forest, and eventually worked at eight different national forests in three regions. His roles have included working on a fire ground crew, as a forest supervisor, a district ranger, and in legislative affairs in the Washington office, where he worked on the National Fire Plan, the 2001 roadless rule and the Secure Rural Schools County Payments Act.
 
He was supervisor of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.
 
In 2006, Tidwell was appointed Deputy Regional Forester for Fire and Aviation Management, Recreation, Engineering, State and Private Forestry and Tribal Relations for the Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5).
 
The following year he was appointed Regional Forester for the Northern Region (Region 1), succeeding Gail Kimbell when she was appointed chief. The Northern Region includes 25 million acres in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota encompassing 12 national forests and four national grasslands.
 
In June 2009, Tidwell succeeded Kimbell again when he was appointed as chief of the Forest Service. He is the third consecutive person promoted from Region 1 Regional Forester to chief.
 
Tidwell and his wife, Kim, have one daughter.
 
Chief's Biography (U.S. Forest Service)
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Kimbell, Abigail
Previous Chief
A native of New England, Abigail R. Kimbell has served as the 16th (and first female) chief of the US Forest Service from February 5, 2007 until 2009.
 
Kimbell received a bachelor’s degree in forest management from the University of Vermont in 1974. She later earned a master’s in forest engineering from Oregon State University.
 
She began her federal career in Oregon with the Bureau of Land Management in 1974 and joined the Forest Service as a pre-sale forester in Alaska three years later. She then worked in Oregon as a logging engineer and a district planner. Kimbell served as a district ranger on the Colville National Forest (Kettle Falls, Washington) from 1985-1988 and on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (La Grande, Oregon) from 1988-1991.
 
She was forest supervisor of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from 1992-1997 and the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming from 1997-1999. From 1999-2002, Kimbell was forest supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche National Grassland (all in Colorado) as well as the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas. In 2002, Kimbell moved to USFS headquarters to begin her post as the associate deputy chief for the National Forest System. Under her tenure, Kimbell played a role in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, which was widely criticized by environmentalists as a give away to the timber industry. In 2003 Kimbell became the regional forester for the Northern Region (Montana).
 
To her numerous critics, Kimbell is known as a pro-timber placement and the person responsible for the largest reprisal action ever taken against agency whistleblowers. Under her watch as forest supervisor at the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, nearly half the agency’s staff was forced out during a standoff over concerns raised about USFS mismanagement, including violation of environmental laws. The controversy, which began in 1992 with Kimbell’s predecessor, included allegations of illegal timber sales and sweetheart concessions to favored timber companies; failure to meet reforestation commitments to restore habitat; and violation of wilderness protections and road construction through Native American sacred sites. In 1994, eight Bighorn employees wrote a letter to their regional forester in which they claimed that Kimbell’s predecessor had created a hostile work environment and was mismanaging the forest.
 
When Kimbell took office in 1997, she authored an agency reorganization that purged most of the original whistleblowers who had not yet been forced out by harassment or intimidation—in total, 30 of 44 employees who had raised concerns about mismanagement were purged from their jobs. Kimbell attributed the reorganization to necessary budgetary constraints, but in the end, the bureaucratic labor force at Bighorn increased from 74 to 108 employees between 1997 (when she took office) and 2003—and was marked by a trend of replacing environmental experts with office workers.
 
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) represented eight of the fired employees in a Whistleblower Protection Act lawsuit, and in 2003, after a prolonged investigation, the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that the act had been violated. The agency agreed to corrective action, including a $200,000 payment for damages, divided among the eight claimants and charges brought against the employees by Kimbell were dropped.
 
Letter to the Chief (by Richard Artley, Forest Magazine
Kimbell named head of U.S. Forest Service (By Sherry Devlin, Missoulian)
New chief faces same challenges (editorial, Missoulian)
Bosworth says he's leaving forests job (by Warren Cornwall,Seattle Times)
 
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