Editor’s note: This report, by Kit Pearson, comes to us from today’s SHOSHONE NEWS-PRESS. A pdf of Nelson’s Charter Forests: A New Management Approach for National Forests can be downloaded at this web page.
Shoshone County Commissioners listened Monday to ideas by a public policy professor about utilizing parts of the county to implement a charter forest management approach.
Robert H. Nelson, a 22-year professor at the University of Maryland, delivered to commissioners — and two school superintendents from the Silver Valley in attendance — copies of his book, entitled “Charter Forests: A New Management Approach for National Forests.” In it, Nelson compares the approach of charter schools to his concept of charter forests, which would fall under a federal designation but with more local control.
“This is a request for significant change, but not so radical that it would be impossible,” Nelson said about the concept he would like to see legislated into existence.
Nelson described charter schools as being “almost like a quasi-private school but operating in a public concept” and translated that description into his vision of charter forests.
Critical of the United States Forest Service and its management practices, Nelson said he wrote a book in 2000 about forest fire in the west and the futility of efforts to deal with it entitled, “A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the US Forest Service.”
“The Forest Service grew out of the thinking of the progressive era from about 1890 to 1920 and still has a culture which is heavily influenced by the ideas and the thinking of that time,” he said.
The professor, who worked as a senior economist in the office of policy analysis of the office of the secretary of interior for 18 years, envisions forest management free from judicial review and exemption from “less restrictive hiring practices.”
“The levels of timber harvest that have resulted in a couple of decades are unreasonably low in a lot of places,” Nelson said.
Shoshone County Commissioner Mike Fitzgerald commented that he would like to see any financial benefits of charter forests tied to local school districts if the concept materializes.
“The schools and county are running out of money,” said Mullan Schools superintendent Robin Stanley shortly before describing the Silver Valley as “a resource-based community.”
Commissioners opted to continue the discussion in late July.