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.