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Forest Mismanagement. (Letters to the Editor).

"Locking Up Our Lands" by William F. Jasper, in the October 8th issue of THE NEW AMERICAN, was an excellent article. Our federal land management agencies certainly are not managing the federal lands for the purposes originally intended.

The national forests were established for the purposes of providing a continuous supply of timber for the people of the United States, protection, and maintaining the flow of water. The waters within, and leaving, the boundaries of the national forests are, consistently, the best-quality waters anywhere in the nation.

For years the Forest Service effectively protected the national forests against wildfire, encroachment, insects, disease, and the elements. In the last two decades, however, the Forest Service has failed miserably in its efforts to protect the lands and resources. The agency has also failed to meet its obligation to manage the timber resources in a way that provides a continuous supply of wood products for the citizens of the U.S., and in a way that assures healthy and productive forests for generations to come.

In 1983 the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service (R-1), which includes some 25 million acres of national forest in northern Idaho, Montana, and portions of North and South Dakota, sold some 1.1 billion board feet (mmmbf) of timber, most of it live green trees.

Between 1982 and 1987, the 12 national forests in R-l completed individual management plans for each national forest, in compliance with the National Forest Management Act of 1976. These plans provided guidance for the management of all of the resources on each national forest and established outputs for the renewable resources, such as timber. Collectively, the annual timber production for all of the national forests in R-l would have maintained the 1.1 mmmbf annual timber sales program. Soon after the management plans were implemented, the Forest Service, without adequately amending or revising the forest plans, as required by law, and without adequate public notification or participation, also required by law, began to deviate from the plans.

A good example of this failure to perform is provided by the Kootenai National Forest. In 1988, a serious wildfire year, the Kootenai National Forest alone sold 190 million board feet (mmbf) of timber, and in 1989 that Forest sold 232 mmbf. In 2000, however, all 12 national forests in R-1, including Kootenai, sold only 189 mmbf of timber. That's less than 20 percent of what R-1 sold in 1983.

These kinds of figures are prevalent throughout the National Forest System. You can check it out by contacting the Regions or the Forest Service in Washington, D.C.

It is disgraceful, illegal, and unprofessional for an agency of the federal government to perform in this manner. I'm very concerned that the current Chief of the Forest Service was the Regional Forester for the Northern Region for the four years immediately prior to being appointed to Chief Forester. It was during that period that failure to perform accelerated and the Region accelerated its road-closure program. It is virtually impossible to manage vast areas of land without adequate transportation facilities, and the Forest Service is dismantling the transportation system throughout the National Forest System. Unfortunately, neither Congress nor the administration appear to be concerned enough about this situation to do anything to correct it.

JIM RATHBUN

Libby, Montana

Former Supervisor of the Kootenai National Forest (1983-1990)
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Publication:The New American
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Dec 31, 2001
Words:561
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