*Chief Tidwell has spent too much time in D.C.: Robin Stanley’s response to the Chief’s Evergreen interview

Editor’s note:  This opinion piece comes to us from NWAF! Coalition member Robin Stanley, submitted earlier today.

I just completed reading Forest Service Chief Tidwell’s interview in Evergreen magazine”.  Unfortunately, our Chief doesn’t get it.  His whole mantra is “Building and maintaining trust with the public.”  But it isn’t an issue of building trust.  It’s an issue of fundamental beliefs.  There are those who do not believe any trees should be cut and that man should not manage our forests.  Forests should be left to nature.  So what does building trust have to do with changing their fundamental belief?  Education maybe, but building trust?  Is the Chief asking the extreme enviros to “trust” that collaboratives will do the right thing? Even if collaboratives were successful at convincing 99% of the population that the project is valuable and necessary to save our forests, the remaining one percent can still file a suit.

Secondly, the Chief admits collaboratives move slowly.  So his suggestion is to attempt larger projects.  Is the Chief so out of touch with reality that he doesn’t know that the larger the projects, the greater the probability of law suits?  Doesn’t the Chief know that for decades there has been an effort to do small projects to keep them under the radar of sue-happy environmentalists?

Furthermore, in the interview, Tidwell states he is reluctant to discourage the availability of the courts to those that cannot afford to put up bonds and mentions that the climate change and other factors have lead to the bad fire season.  Unfortunately he failed to mention the elephant in the room, the accumulation of fire fuel over the past three decades.

So in other words, Chief Tidwells solution to our wild fire crisis is increasing the size of the projects proposed for the collaborative, developing better public trust, and hiring more employees to do all the paper work.  No wonder we’re in trouble.  The Chief’s comments reminds me of Albert Einstein’s quote about “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Building public trust and supporting the collaborative approach are definitely the politically correct things to say and do.  But the management of our national forests cannot be entrusted to the public.  The public in not trained in forest management, but the public does have an opinion.   I agree with Congressman Don Young from Alaska in his statement:  “I look at this and the Forest Service is no longer the Forest Service, it’s the Park Service,” Young said. “They’re not trying to manage the timber.”

I read Chief Tidwell’s statements and I see him as the “Park Ranger” trying to please all the park visitors, hoping they will write him a nice review when they exit the park.  But he is not trying to manage the timber in our forests to protect our communities from wildfire. He is not willing to stand up to do what he should know needs to be done to protect our forests, wildlife, and communities from catastrophic fire.  Instead he is worried about being politically correct and building trust.

Instead of focusing on being politically correct and blaming climate change, he should be addressing the real problem, the accumulation of fire fuel.  And there can never be a significant change in forest management without addressing the potential of every significant tree harvesting proposal being challenged in court

My heart goes out to the Forest Service employees that know and understand the real problem but are restrained by the Forest Service management at the top.

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3 Responses to *Chief Tidwell has spent too much time in D.C.: Robin Stanley’s response to the Chief’s Evergreen interview

  1. Dawn wiksten says:

    Yasher Koah! ! Well done Robin Stanley! ! Well done. . still say we load up the charred remains of the burned out forests on logging trucks, each can be labeled with where they came from on the trucks, drive em to DC and dump them on the capital steps! !

  2. macmcconnell says:

    “New species listings and new bad press take a terrible toll on agency morale. When we stop the same timber sale three or four times running, the timber planners … feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed — and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules. … Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.” K. Suckling, Executive Director, Center for Biological Diversity.
    “The Sierra Club support[s] protecting all federal publicly owned lands in the United States and advocate[s] an end to all commercial logging on these lands.” Adopted in the Sierra Club Annual Election, April 20, 1996.

    These quotes reveal precisely the unreality of the Chief’s contention that “public trust” will eliminate litigation. As the op-ed points out, while 99% of the public may support a collaborative project, the unconvinced 1% can (and will) bring suit.

    But the Chief is not a naif. With a career of dealing with a contentious public he must know full well that his position has no substance. A person highly placed in the Forest Service once told me that in the Washington office, politics is everything. The position of Chief requires political acumen more than it does professional integrity I suspect that the Chief feels he can accomplish more in the long run by supporting the Administration’s position, and keeping his job, than than he can by telling the truth on his issue.

  3. chaparralian says:

    Fires do not happen unless the climate aligns the variables to allow the flames to burn. This is why the Inyo National Forest used to be called the asbestos forest. This is why the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest never used to burn. Fuel, be it grass, shrubs, trees, or houses, will not burn without supporting climatic conditions. Approaching wildfire risk by removing habitat is a losing proposition. It will grow back and burn again when the conditions line up to encourage the flames to run.

    Every large fire in the West has been preceded by long periods of drought, not “fuel” build-up. With climate change, drying will likely increase in areas that were once much wetter. The Forest Service Chief understands this. The scientific community understands this. Unfortunately, it does not serve the interests of the logging industry or those who only see trees as commodities.

    Regarding “sue-happy” environmentalists, in this country, citizens have a right to participate in government and redress grievances. That’s where the courts come in. They represent a key factor in democracy. Of course those on the losing side don’t see it this way, but positive social change has never been accomplished without citizen protests, followed by court victories. This is why we still have a few old-growth forests and wilderness areas not scarred by massive clear cuts and hydraulic mining.

    Our forests belong to all of us, not just those who see them a profit centers. You can try to convince people that your economic interests are really altruistic, but in the end, truth eventually prevails. Nature functioned quite well before we arrived to “manage it.” The public is slowly beginning to realize that is where we need to return.

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