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Vision for the '90s: responsible, shared use.

We are in the midst of our generation's version of the classic struggle over the uses of public lands. Elements of the struggle are the same as they were when John Muir and Gifford Pinchot squared off in decades past. But today's fight has one unique feature: the growing role of the public. Laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) have given the average citizen more access to the planning process. This, coupled with the nation's heightened environmental awareness, has created strong forces for change.

To Idaho outfitters, the Salmon River is the lifeblood of a thriving industry. In 1987 outfitters who work on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, a section that traverses the Frank Churh-River of No Return Wilderness, introduced a resolution at the annual meeting at the Idaho outfitters association demanding the cessation of mining activity along the lower stretches of the river. Opposition to the resolution came from a surprising source--other river outfitters.

"We've been working beside those mines for years without any problems," they said. "Many of us are former miners and loggers. We get along fine, so you upriver guys butt out!"

The resolution failed, but the discussion was an education in the shared use of public resources.

Last year was Idaho's centennial. The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA) sponsored a three-week float trip traversing the entire length of the Salmon, commemorating its role in Idaho history. The focal point of the event was a 33-foot wooden scow, a replica of the vessel used by pioneers to supply mines and homesteads in the remote depths of the river canyon. The trip was a partnership effort by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, do-it-yourself boaters, and outfitters.

As the trip progressed past the small communities that dot the banks, I was impressed by two profound images. One was the turnout of local citizenry to help celebrate the centennial and the Salmon River's part in Idaho history. Farmers, ranchers, loggers, miners, fishermen, and recreationists had all made this river a part of their life.

The second image was the quality of the resource. After more than a century of use by people from all walks of life, the Salmon River is a shining example of how well multiple use has worked. It is also a good example of the sensitivities that need to be recognized during Idaho's second 100 years.

The unique history and value of the Salmon River is also one reason Dale Robertson, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and Stan Tixier, the Forest Service's Region Four forester, chose the Salmon in 1989 and 1990 for river trips to highlight and support the concept of multiple use of our national forests.

The participants on these two trips were too numerous to list, but Stan had in mind a program IOGA and the Forest Service have used successfully since

1987--Partners Afloat and Partners Astride )see AMERICAN FORESTS, November/December 1990). The partnership program has brought together outfitters and public-land managers to discuss their concerns and to highlight their common goals of caring for the land and serving people. The float and pack trips have been the catalyst for moving outfitters and managers from an era of conflict and distrust to an era of focus on shared rights, responsibilities, and partnership.

At the close of the 1987 Partners Afloat trip, Jerry Myers of Silver Cloud Expeditions said to the managers, "We have a lot of interests in common. This river in particular! You went into your business because you care about the land and want to be close to it. So did we. We need to work together."

The Chief's float trips have made me realize that the concerns I have for the outfitting industry's operations in the '90s are similar to concerns shared by the grazing, timber, and mineral industries.

The multiple-use industries have resisted change. Radicalism and strident demands by some elements of the environmental community have left little room for flexibility. During the '80s the struggle led to an unprecedented polarization in the public's position on use of public lands. The result today is a serious threat to the traditional multiple-use concept for public lands.

During a recent discussion of NEPA and its impact on permit renewals for outfitters Dick Woodrow of the Forest Service stated, "Someone out there is trying to stop everything that is going on on national forest lands, and NEPA is one of the processes they can use." That certainly applies whether you are concerned about your timber sale, grazing allotment, oil and gas lease, or a reserved camp for your clients.

So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to throw in the towel and look for another line of work? I've seen several respected outfitters who were unable to adjust to the present realities of working on public lands. They simply sold out and left. Should we draw a line in the dirt and fight to the death? One timber participant on the Chief's trip suggested just that, saying, "There will be blood spilled in the national forests this summer!" The group rejected that point of view.

The participants were struggling for a redefinition of the middle ground, but perhaps middle is the wrong word. Neil Sampson, executive vice president of AFA, said it best: "It's not the middle; it is the high ground."

You could view that high ground in terms of the classic bell curve, with the majority of the American public falling in the peak at the middle. The challenge to the outfitting industry, and other industries that use public lands, is to occupy that ground along with the majority.

To occupy the high ground of the future, we must first define it. The term multiple use, with its strong anchor in law, has become worn after years of struggle. It is carrying a lot of unneeded baggage into the shifting sands of the '90s. One element of that baggage is complicating the adjustment in attitude that is needed to deal with the growing involvement of the public in managing public lands.

The difficult element involves ownership and rights. In the outfitting industry, the reserved camps that we are allowed on public lands are necessary to our role of serving the vacationing public. In the past, many outfitters took the attitude that this right to have a reserved camp equals ownership--an attitude that says, "This is my camp, and I'll run it any way I want."

Today's reality is that with the right to reserve a camp comes a responsibility to run that camp right--in a manner sensitive to our impact on the land. We also must understand that we share use of the land with other members of the public who don't use our services but who camp in the same area and have very strong feelings about how we should be caring for the land.

Industry is not alone in the need for an attitude adjustment. The land-management agencies face the same struggle. How many times have you heard the term Forest Service land or BLM land? There is no such thing. It is all public land, and the owners--the American public--through their representatives in Congress hire someone--the agencies--to manage it.

Today we are seeing a redefinition by the owners regarding how they want their land managed. Gone are the days when a manager can survive with the attitude, "This is the way we've always done it." If you don't believe this to be the case, you should attend a few hearings on Capitol Hill and note the hot seat occupied by Forest Service, BLM, and Park Service officials who are testifying.

Officials at the helm have gotten the message, and the massive ship of the land-management agencies is starting to turn. The challenge remains to get the word down to all the sailors on board.

The high ground of the future can best be described by the phrase responsible, shared use. Responsible, shared use means that industry will be there, working on public lands in the future, but only if we conduct our business in a responsible, environmentally sound manner. It means that the National Forest System, as a whole, supports a variety of uses to benefit the American public, including conservation, renewable resources, and extracted resources.

If we are able to achieve the high ground of responsible, shared use, it will mean that, although some users will not be there in 2001, all the uses will be.

The participants in the Chief's partnership float trip are the core of a future National Forest Alliance with the theme of responsible, shared use. This coalition of industries that work on the national forests represents a community of users focusing on the value of the whole--the system of national forests and other public lands.

The alliance is sharing ideas on how we can work with the Forest Service to meet our mutual goals. It is seeking out and nurturing opportunities for partnership and setting a theme that needs to be taken to the local and state level to build coalitions of users who are willing to step back from the polarization of the past and focus on the value of the system.

The recreation industry is a leader in the formation of the alliance. Our time has come. Funding is looking better than it has in years, and the focus is on "fun in the forests." This is making some of our fellow users nervous, but that need not be the case.

The recreation industry, including outfitters and guides, must expand its role as educators and role models. Take as an example my original point about the miners on the Salmon River. When an outfitter hosting 20 members of the public floats by a riverside mine, he should use the opportunity to put the operation in an historical, positive context. The vacationers should leave the encounter with a sense of the lure of gold that drove our country's westward expansion and exploration. Through a brief riverside visit, they could also hear an overview of the techniques today's miners use to minimize impacts.

Rather than focus on mistakes made by loggers and grazers (we've made ours, too), we should seek out those who exhibit responsible land-use practices. It is a false prophet for our industry who preaches growth built on the decline of other industries. Those critics who distrust any human activity on public lands could well become antagonists of the outfitting industry, accusing us of "loving the resource to death."

An alliance of responsible, sharing users cannot be a single voice. We cannot allow the vision for the future of our public lands to be defined by a single entity. The environmental community does not have sole possession of the holy grail. Neither do the federal land-managing agencies. The vision of what is right and how public land will be used must come from an open, active, and fluid process that includes multiple industries stepping forward in a leadership role to define responsible, shared use.

A vital element of tomorrow's high ground is the environmental community. Bearing the commitment to responsible, shared use, the alliance of industries must ask them this question: "Do you see a future for the National Forest System that includes responsible, shared use by industry--for the benefit of the public?" I believe there is a reasonable core who will answer yes and work with us. The radicals, the purists, the lock-it-up crowd will have isolated themselves as ineffective and on the edge of the bell curve of public opinion.

The vision for the '90s already has a structure. It was given to us 100 years ago--a vibrant, productive National Forest System for the enduring benefit of the American people. If that vision is to include the traditional uses we all cherish, we must step forward to define it together.

Doug Tims of Boise, Idaho, is president of Northwest River Company, a recreation service partner with the U.S. Forest Service. He is president of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association and is the northern Rockies representative of America Outdoors, a national association of outfitters.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:attitude adjustment toward the use of public lands
Author:Tims, Doug
Publication:American Forests
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:2023
Previous Article:American Forestry Association 1990 annual report.
Next Article:National forests, national identity.
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