This section goes over an extensive list of policies passed throughout the history of the Forest Service. Each legislative bill passed has contributed to the way the service manages the forests. For those interested in learning more about specific legislation that set up policies that fund the Forest Service, this page will be extremely helpful.
I encourage everyone who is interested in understanding how the Forest Service has manipulated the national forests to watch the following 25 minute series entitledExposing the Truth. This video summarizes all the points in this section by presenting a series of Google images exposing what happened to our forests during the past century with the scientifically backed Forest Service version of management. It is our hope that people become aware of the destruction that occurs on forests and insist that policies shift from guaranteeing destruction of the last remaining forests to assuring these ecological gems are protected from logging and political corruption so forests can finally begin to heal from the damage that "management" has created.
Forest Service Created to Manage Timber for Industry, Forest Transfer Act 1905
Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the USFS
Prior to 1905, forests in the United States were rapidly liquidated into profit gained from "building the Nation." In the process, more and more land and species were disappearing from a landscape that once teamed with life and abundance. Teddy Roosevelt became increasingly concerned with conservation and used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS). The Forest Service was established as an entity with Gifford Pinchot serving as the first chief of the USFS in 1905 "with a sacred mission to provide wood to the world in order to avert the evils of a "timber famine." Pinchot was central in forming a forest policy and began what he called "the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man." From the beginning, the Forest Service viewed forests as banks the Nation could draw from to increase profit margins. The USFS has consistently, since its beginnings, made decisions based on getting the cut out and turning profits from the forest to the timber industry, stressing that timber needed to be extracted in a way that would prevent a timber famine to ensure the Nation would not bankrupt itself of valuable lumber.
Scientific management has always been central to decisions the Forest Service has implemented. Bernhard Fernow, a German-born and trained forester who served as chief of the agency that was the predecessor of today's Forest Service, was a key figure in the introduction of the science of forestry to the United States. He stated: "The fully equipped forester is a business manager, whose business it is to turn into profit the product of a forest property sustained in continuous revenue-producing capacity." He further explained that good forestry "is exactly the same as agriculture. It is the application of superior knowledge and skill to produce a wood crop." Historically, and up to the present, the Forest Service's central focus has been harvesting trees hand in hand with the timber industry to provide the nation with a renewable source of lumber based on scientific management themes, which have proven to have detrimental effects on the forests. Based on the scientific management of forestry, Pinchot claimed that all old-growth forests were "wasteful" and insisted that they be replaced by high-value trees such as Douglas Firs. Once they reached maturity, these trees could be cut down and replaced by a newly managed forest that could, in theory, produce sustained yields of lumber forever. This idea of sustained yield forestry remains central as the agencies guiding principle.
Forest Service Fire Policy
Fires have always played an integral role in forests. That role varies significantly between regional areas, but has always been essential in healthy forest ecology, especially in the West. Fire was used by many indigenous groups throughout the northern hemisphere to encourage growth of certain plants and grazing lands for animals people depended on for their sustenance. Fire shaped the landscape of North America in beneficial and necessary ways prior to European arrival. With the establishment of the Forest Service and the emphasis on managing the forests for timber, a fire suppression policy was put into place. All fires managed on forested lands were to be aggressively extinguished. The main drive for fire suppression was to save the economic value of timber by backing up that premise with "sound science" in regards to managing a healthy forest. A number of catastrophic fires occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century that enforced the imagined need to control fire. The drought of 1910 and the wildfires that ensued created the public drive to suppress fires at all costs. In 1935, the 10 A.M. rule was established by the Forest Service that set the policy in motion to put out every fire by 10 A.M. the following morning after it started. This policy was quite effective in eliminating the natural fire sequence from many of the nation's forests. The 10 A.M. policy was in place until 1978, and suppression still plays a huge part in the Forest Service and their budget. Today, 42% of the Forest Service budget is used for fire suppression. In 1944, when the need for lumber increased exponentially as a result of World War II, the Forest Service began an ad campaign using a cute little black bear named Smokey to drive the need for fire suppression acceptance throughout the public. The Smokey Bear slogan was "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" which misled the public into believing that forest fires were predominantly caused by human negligence when, in reality, the vast amount of fires in the forests were caused by lightning. The Forest Service was attempting to fully metabolize the need for gross budgets to gain public acceptance for fighting fires. This was believed to be a necessary step if "forest managers" were to save lumber for industry.
Today fire ecologists, as well as the Forest Service and much of the public, recognize that the past century of fire suppression, based on "sound science," was a catastrophic decision in various ways. Currently, the Forest Service uses that "mistake" to push more logging on the public by reasoning that, since we suppressed fires for so long, now we need to alter the forests by logging them, while still aggressively fighting the majority of fires, even when they are in remote areas. It is increasingly important that citizens begin to understand the insanity in trusting an agency that continues to do irreparable harm to forests based on various forms of industry-funded "sound science."
Knudson-Vandenberg Act of 1930
The Knutson-Vanderburg Act was passed in 1930 and established the K-V fund that is supposed to set aside funding for reforestation and restoration of logged areas in the National Forests. This money comes directly from a percentage of every timber sale in the National Forests. Money from this fund has continuously been siphoned to pay for basic overhead costs such as firefighting, rent and office equipment for the Forest Service. The K-V fund creates a powerful incentive for the USFS to approve logging projects that feed their budgets. In recent years, the Forest Service utilized up to 50% of the K-V Fund for organizational costs. The Congress, because of obvious abuses, limited that amount to 20% in 2001, and with that limit the service still siphoned $115 million dollars from the K-V fund for USFS overhead in 2003.
Since K-V funds are supposed to be spent on restoration and reforestation after timber companies devastate forested areas by clear cutting and thinning, it is concerning to see at least half of these funds have not been used for those purposes and instead are diverted to areas where the Forest Service falls short. Over $420 million of those dollars were used in the 90's to fight fires and the USFS has not restored those funds nor are they required to do so. Further, the service does not have reliable financial information on their transactions nor are they required to keep that information readily available to Congress or the public.
The Knudson-Vanderburg act played an important role in establishing a financial incentive for the Forest Service to push logging over other uses of National Forests since the service is able to draw from that funding to compensate for areas they come up short in as long as the timber receipts keep replenishing. The act gives the agency an incentive to sell timber no matter what the risk.
Timber Production War Project
World War II brought increasing demands to the United States for lumber.With the war, the Timber Production War Project was established and prioritized increased National Forest wood outputs and called on the Forest Service in solving production bottlenecks. There were two areas of focus the war project addressed. First, there were shortages in lumber from the eastern forests because they had already been severely depleted in privately owned forested lands. The need to get into National Forests to utilize those resources became the top priority of the Forest Service. Secondly, the industry needed labor to run saw mills and under this project they were able to utilize thousands of prisoners of war to perform slave labor in the mills. The Timber Production War Project effectively added 1.7 billion board feet of lumber output by 1944 by going into National Forests for product and monopolizing the labor shortage by introducing war prisoners into the labor force in the saw mills. During this time it became important to push the fire suppression agenda since lumber was in such high demand and no one wanted to see those profits go up in smoke. Smokey the Bear appears in 1944 and is heavily pushed on the public. Fire suppression took on new levels of priority and importance within the Forest Service in the way they managed the forests. Starting during World War II, the Forest Service facilitated a period of intensive resource extraction that was only slowed in the early 90's due to public outcry over the increasingly depleted forest lands. The Timber Production War Project opened up the forests during World War II and affected policy long after the War with the demand for jobs and timber for housing that was steadily on the rise. Many looked to the National Forests in the West to meet those demands. National Forest sale levels increased from 2 billion board feed in the mid 1940's to over 10 billion board feet by the 1960's.
Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Forest Management Act of 1960
Forest policies supporting the increased production of forests to lumber caused alarm in the general public as individuals were seeing the detrimental effects of logging huge areas of National Forests. Conservationists were increasingly concerned about aesthetic values of forests that were being lost as a result of the timber policy of the Forest Service. Environmental and recreational interests gained momentum raising concerns regarding the priority the Forest Service had placed in timber extraction from the nation's forests. As a result of this growing concern, the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act (MUSY) was put in place in 1960. This statute was notable in that it required the Forest Service to consider resource values such as range, wildlife, water and outdoor recreation without emphasizing timber production. This balance would be quite a shift for the Forest Service since the agency continuously favored timber production as the dominant use within the list of public land management responsibilities. Unfortunately, "consider" was all the Forest Service was required to do in regards to implementing this law. In essence, the MUSY preserved agency autonomy by placing no requirements on the service for establishing priorities. Congress left the power of decision up to Forest Service officials in determining how these competing values should be balanced. MUSY was implemented by the Forest Service as a legal cover to allow the organization to appear as if forest management interests were balanced through rhetoric (note all the forest signs' caveat: Land of Many Uses) while changing relatively nothing in regards to prioritizing timber as the main driving concern of the service. This multiple-use caveat was introduced to gain public support for the agency at a time when that support was being increasingly questioned by the public. Implementation of MUSY was intended to draw criticism away from the fact that the Forest Service was directly contributing to the timber industry by providing necessary infrastructure to "get the cut out." Road building, logging and answering to the timber industries' needs has always been the main focus of the Forest Service. The multiple-use caveat allowed the Forest Service to gain more control of public forest lands by creating an appearance of concern over other uses of forested lands but, in reality, the main focus has always been timber and boosting the industry.
During the 60's, the public became increasingly concerned about environmental issues and began enacting laws that would protect the few remaining wild places in the nation starting with the Wilderness Act of 1964. The National Environmental Policy Act passed in 1969 and required any proposed federal action that could have a potentially significant impact on the environment be accompanied by an environmental impact statement (EIS), which was designed to identify more environmentally sound project options or eliminate them if they were too destructive on the ecology of an area. Most importantly, the creation of EISs had to be undertaken with input from the public. The requirement for citizen participation has been used effectively as a tool by many groups to delay or stop timber sales through litigation. This legislation has set up numerous road blocks for the Forest Service and their dependence on funding from timber sales. Since the act was passed, the Forest Service and timber industry have looked for various ways to circumvent this bothersome piece of legislation. Starting in the 80's, the service implemented specific areas of development that could be excluded from NEPA such as road maintenance, fires and funding and scheduling of projects. In '85 the Forest Service also excluded small harvest cuts. In 2003 the Healthy Forest Restoration Act allowed the service to widely exclude a huge number of potential EISs by setting up the language implicating that restoring and improving forested lands by thinning for fire mitigation did not need to go through NEPA regulations and disallowed public input on National Forest land.
Endangered Species Act 1973
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one of many environmental laws passed during the '70's as a result of increasing concerns over loss of habitat and diversity occurring in this nation and around the World. This law required the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFS) to identify threatened plant and animal species and then take actions to promote and protect their recovery. The ESA further recognized that all species were members of ecosystems and worthy of protection, indicating a growing interest in biodiversity and ecosystem science. The ESA recognized the importance of old-growth forests as biological treasures that ensured protection for a variety of plant and animal species, which was a break from the old view propagated by Gifford Pinchot who saw old-growth forests as unproductive and in need of being eliminated for "the good of the country."
The ESA affected the Forest Service because it limited the National Forests that were overseen by the agency from timber sales. The ESA banned logging in large areas of Oregon where the Spotted Owl existed. In order for the service to approve logging projects in these protected areas, they were now required to conduct a biological assessment which was prepared and reviewed by the Forest Service. Once again, as seen with NEPA, the timber industry, in partnership with the service, has worked tirelessly to create exemptions to these rules and has proven to be effective in these exemptions by using the Healthy Forest Restoration Act as the legislation to bypass these environmental laws. By using the rhetoric of this law to promote "healthy forests" through "restoration measures" (aka logging), the public was swayed to see the HFRA as a way towards forest health through logging once-protected biological treasures.
National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 - Salvage Sale Fund
The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 was enacted as a loophole to a federal district court case, League vs. Butz (otherwise known as the Monongahela decision), that effectively banned clear cutting on National Forests. The NFMA was an amendment to the recently enacted Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, requiring the National Forest to create an updated forest plan and to manage the forest according to the plan. Under NFMA, the clear cutting ban was circumvented by specifying annual timber harvesting goals be met under multiyear forest management plans. During the '70's, environmental restraints made it increasingly difficult for the Forest Service to maintain their budget through timber sales on public lands. Due to this fact, the Forest Service had to find new and different ways that would allow them to maintain their budget so they could continue as a bureaucratic organization by justifying ecologically destructive timber sales. NFMA did that by creating a bill that would allow public feedback and the appearance of an effort to better manage forests with an ecological focus on timber extraction for "forest health." NFMA was essentially compromise legislation that included biological diversity and public participation clauses favored by environmentalists but legalized clear cutting once again and reprioritized the Forest Service's commitment to timber over all other uses. The NFMA further allowed the Forest Service to sell burned, dead, downed or diseased trees under the title of salvage sales by establishing the Timber Salvage Sale Fund and placing revenues from timber salvage sales back into this fund rather than returning the money to the US Treasury. The Forest Service has no legal obligation to account for any of the money placed into this fund and can use it to serve their organization in whatever way they deem appropriate without congressional oversight. The Salvage Act gave the service jurisdiction to sell timber to secure its budget while also appeasing the public by claiming these sales were "sound ecosystem management." Salvage sales can qualify as "emergencies" and can exceed the 40-acre clear-cut limit. This creates an incentive for the Forest Service to liquidate forested lands into timber profit and encourages the organization to deem as much timber "salvage" as possible. As a 1992 Forest Service memo stated: "Even if a sale is totally green, as long as one board comes off that would qualify as salvage on the Salvage Sale Fund Plan, it should be called salvage." By returning receipts to the Forest Service from sales to the timber industry, the fund creates a financial incentive for the agency to choose salvage logging when other restoration activities would be more appropriate. Presently, the Salvage Fund is financing approximately one-third of the logging on National Forests completely free from congressional oversight. Many of these sales fail to cover significant portions of their costs. The NFMA creates an incentive through implementing the Salvage Sale Fund to prioritize timber sales above all other forest uses and functions. The Forest Service will continue to apply timber industry practices on National Forests even if these practices are highly destructive to the forest ecosystem. Logging clearly drives the decisions of the Forest Service when their budget depends on the income that logging generates.
Logging the Tongass and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA)
Tax Subsidized Clear Cuts in the Tongass Forest
In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was passed with multiple interests for logging in mind in the temperate rain forests of Alaska. The Tongass Forest contained the last extensive stands of old growth timber in the National Forest system and ANILCA made a large portion of the Tongass available for logging. Under this act, Congress sets a target of logging 450 million board feet a year on the Tongass Forest and provides a permanent $40 million annual subsidy to the Forest Service to prepare and administer timber sales. This money was to be spent on building roads and infrastructure to "get the cut out" of the Nation's last standing, old-growth forest. During the '80's, the industry bought timber for $3 per 1,000 board feet from the Forest Service, while selling it on the open market for $200 per 1,000 board feet with the majority of the wood being sold to the Far East. This policy locks the Forest Service, once again, into prioritizing timber sales over other forest uses.
Spotted Owl Controversy - Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) 1994
Throughout the past century, 95% of old-growth forest was rapidly decimated by the timber industry, with the help of the Forest Service, causing alarm among citizens who recognized that the last 5% of intact forests were in grave danger. Species' extinctions are happening at rapid rates due to this loss of habitat. Concerned groups of citizens understood that something needed to be done to save the last remaining forests and the diversity that these forests create and sustain. In 1990, the Northern Spotted Owl was declared a threatened species by the Fish and Wildlife Service. This declaration led to a 1991 Unites States District Court decision by Judge William Dwyer, who placed an injunction on state and federal timber sales until further studies on the owl's habitat were completed. Dwyer restricted logging on most National Forests and many private timberlands in the old-growth forests of Washington, Oregon and northern California. The spotted owl was the legal impetus for stopping the destruction of further old-growth forests by utilizing the ESA. This caused a desperate outcry from the timber industry creating controversy, and in response President Clinton organized a Northwest Forest Summit in 1993. The summit was composed of a wide range of interest groups and gathered to form a compromise. Three months after the summit, Clinton unveiled his forest plan. The Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) created a vision for the Pacific Northwest that would coordinate management direction for lands administered by the Forest Service and the BLM to adopt complimentary approaches through these agencies in the range of the spotted owl. The plan laid out specific goals that attempted to please both environmentalists and timber executives by legislating that forests serving as habitat for the spotted owl would need to produce timber products while, at the same time, protecting and managing the impacted species. The plan attempted to meet this goal by including an annual harvest goal of 1.1 billion board feet in these forests while setting aside old-growth reserves and conservation areas to protect threatened species. The plan also called for some salvage logging and thinning and designated funds to aid lumber workers and timber-dependent towns with job training and economic development. This plan effectively removed Judge Dwyer's ban on logging; however, the timber industry was not satisfied because the plan did not allow the industry nearly as much lumber as they were accustomed to and further protected a large chunk of profitable old-growth forest from the industry.
Salvage Rider - 1995
With the passing of the Northwest Forest Plan, the timber industry was outraged and put together what was called the Salvage Logging Rider to get around the protections put in place through that legislation. The industry and the Forest Service cleverly utilized the fires of 1994, in which 4 million acres burned in the forests of the West, and suggested there were 4-5 billion board feet of lumber to be salvaged from those forests without damaging the environment. The industry explained that, if they were not allowed to get to those resources, the economic value would be lost to decay and insect damage. Knowing that the salvage bill would never pass on its own, the timber industry managed to quietly slip it into an emergency disaster relief and anti-terrorism bill to try and make it "veto-proof." Clinton signed this emergency appropriations bill with the Salvage Logging Rider attached, allowing logging of healthy trees in National Forests under the guise of salvage. The bill's duration was for 18 months and prompted a huge public outcry specifically over one section of the rider since that section ordered the release of prepared green timber sales that were previously halted because of environmental concerns. Many of them were old-growth forests providing critical wildlife habitat as well as being ecological reserves. The salvage rider, as it was written and signed into law, suspended environmental laws, including "any compact, executive agreement, convention, treaty and international agreement and implementing legislation thereto." The rider allowed logging companies to cut any trees deemed "imminently susceptible to fire or insect attack," including healthy trees 1,000-years old. Logging projects that were recently ruled illegal by federal courts were now offered for sale by the Forest Service including old-growth and roadless-area sales. This specific salvage rider increased the Forest Service budget to 30 million dollars slated for the timber industry in order to "get the cut out" of these protected forests and authorized the logging of 4.5 billion board feet (130,000 acres) in these forests.
National Fire Plan 2001
In the '90's, people began to understand the past century of fire suppression was a huge ecological mistake that created increasingly unhealthy forests and exasperated the risk for catastrophic fires. In 1995, the Federal Wildfire Management Policy was established to allow more fires without suppression in wilderness areas and establish management plans for the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) communities by addressing the increasing threat of fires to people and their residences. In 2000, a drought created several catastrophic fires throughout the nation and prompted a report entitled, "Managing the Impacts of Wildfire on Communities and the Environment: A Report to the President In Response to the Wildfires of 2000" culminating into the National Fire Plan (NFP) of 2001, an extension under the Federal Wildlife Management Plan. The plan acknowledged that hazardous fuels, such as dry brush and trees, have accumulated as a result of fire suppression and increased the likelihood of unusually large wildland fires. The NFP established an intensive, long-term hazardous fuels program intended to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires while restoring forest and rangeland ecosystems to resemble their historical ecology. The NFP program is intended to reduce hazardous fuels through a variety of treatments in order to modify fuels, which will theoretically reduce the potential for severe fire behavior. The focus of the NFP is to protect people and their property from wildfire and address five key points: 1) Firefighting, 2) Rehabilitation and Restoration, 3) Hazardous Fuel Reduction, 4) Community Assistance and 5) Accountability. With the incorporation of the NFP, the budget for this particular program secured nearly $2.9 billion annually in appropriations for the Forest Service and the Department of Interior for implementation. Activities surrounding this legislation focused on the WUI areas and are implemented to treat millions of acres on federal land. The Forest Service also listed thousands of communities that would be receiving assistance in hazardous fuel reductions through these funds. Today, an average of 2 billion dollars annually in appropriations is slated for the the Forest Service through the NFP. It is important to keep in mind that, since the implementation of the NFP, fires continue to increase and hazards have not been alleviated through these programs. Climate and wind are driving forces in fires. No matter how much money and effort we throw at hazardous fuel reductions a catastrophic fire will not be affected by mitigation efforts. The Forest Service has established a clear pattern in funding legislation. The service creates a huge problem that was based on "sound scientific management" principles, and it gets funded to carry out those "fixes." Then they look back on their policies, admit they were huge mistakes, get more funding to do more of the same thing (logging) and the cycle continues. Programs such as the NFP support Forest Service budgets, and we should not confuse that fact with the rhetoric of fire mitigation and forest health.
In 2002, another drought swept through the western states creating a series of catastrophic fires presenting an opportune time for President Bush to announce the Health Forest Initiative, which was later passed into law as the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. Heavily backed by the timber industry, the HFRA legislated that the Nation could reduce fire risk in our forests if hazardous fuels were reduced by logging throughout the forests. However, fire research shows that logging does not reduce fire risk but rather increases risk due to moisture loss, increase in soil temperatures and the rapid regrowth of invasive and fire prone grasses, shrubs and trees. Written into the HFRA, are Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) aimed at making communities in the forest safe from crown fires by emphasizing the removal of hazardous fuels in areas surrounding these communities. This was largely done to help convince the public that the HFRA was a beneficial piece of legislation for the people living in these communities and would help alleviate the enormous fire-fighting costs that were incurred to prevent homes from going up in flames. The HFRA has promoted these types of projects, but the main focus and drive behind the legislation is to remove large diameter trees from back-country forests miles away from at-risk communities. The grants that we see in our communities for thinning stem from this piece of legislation and have done little to reduce fire risk. Fire mitigation and thinning does not reduce fire risk if a hot climatically driven catastrophic fire is raging over the landscape.
This piece of legislation served to rewrite forest management by making regulatory changes to reduce environmental protections and public involvement in forest management projects intended to reduce fire risk. The HFRA effectively dismantled previous environmental protections that were in place under the Clinton administration to speed up the logging process so big timber could get into protected areas without having to comply with environmental legislation enacted to protect the last remaining forests of the Nation. Under the law, the Forest Service no longer has to consider the full range of alternatives or citizen appeals in any circumstance that could potentially "reduce fire risk" and "improve forest health," effectively excluding the public's ability to get judicial injunctions to halt environmentally harmful projects. This legislation further allows the Forest Service to alter the Northwest Forest Plan to fit the needs of the timber industry by ignoring logging impacts on old-growth-dependent species and water quality. The HFRA effectively tripled the allowable logging levels in previously protected forests which effectively undid the prior legislation that cost taxpayers over $42 million to complete.
Stewardship Contracting 2003
The Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2003 authorized the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to undertake stewardship contracting for a period of 10 years. Stewardship contracting goes hand in hand with the HFRA and allows the Forest Service to give away trees to logging companies as partial payment for any management activity on public lands. Stewardship contracting sets up a system where the timber industry can get into forests without public input in the name of "fire mitigation" and "forest health" and take out sought-after lumber as payment for their services of "ecological restoration." Under this contracting, the industry is required to clean up their mess and eliminate dense undergrowth in exchange for valuable timber and old-growth trees. In many cases, the government pays them on top of that, per acre, to do this "restoration" work. Further, the Forest Service is allowed to retain the products' sale receipts rather than return them to the Department of Treasury's general fund. This sets up another strong incentive for the Forest Service to meet budget requirements through sales to the industry under the guise of Stewardship Contracting. Stewardship Contracting sets up a few unique provisions for the timber industry. First, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management can exchange forest products for contract services. Second, agencies can award multi-year contracts for no less than 5 years and up to 10 years, guaranteeing a long-term contract over specific broad areas desirable to the timber companies. Lastly, Stewardship Contracting can be awarded on "best value" rather than the "lowest bidder" allowing the service to take the bidders' technical expertise, past performance, capacity for "careful stewardship" and employment of local workers into account. This way, timber companies can make a considerable profit from these contracts if they are favored by the agency awarding the contract. Forested areas are eligible for Stewardship Contracting if they qualify as "frequent-fire forest ecosystems" or as a high risk of significant ecological damage from catastrophic fires due to accumulations of excess biomass. Approximately 231 million acres potentially qualify for this type of contracting, and the total cost for these services could easily exceed $70 billion if Congress decided to aggressively fund these projects. Stewardship Contracts are little more than timber sales disguised as forest restoration, with less than adequate monitoring. Setting up a system where the industry can exchange "goods for services" encourages loggers to take more and bigger timber from the areas, creating an incentive for managers to increase the sale of goods to generate value to provide services. Contracting further creates an incentive for the agency to rely on logging to pay for restoration projects creating an endless treadmill, because restoration projects are often made necessary by the damage that comes with logging. Engaging in "goods-for-services contracts" emphasizes logging on lands with commercial timber and limits the opportunities on lands that could potentially benefit from hazardous fuel removal.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009
In 2009, Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with the primary goals to create and retain jobs and revitalize the economy in the United States. Within this bill, $28 billion was provided to the USDA and $1.15 billion of that amount was distributed to the Forest Service for project work in forest restoration; hazardous fuels reduction; construction and maintenance of facilities; trails and roads; green energy projects and grants to states, tribes and private landowners. These jobs are distributed over priority locations and are supposed to meet the following criteria: 1. sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands; 2. invest in wood-to-energy or biomass projects, or other initiatives that would help transform rural and urban economies; 3. contribute to sustainable agency operations; 4. leverage other resources to create more jobs; and 5. be sustainable over the long term. Under this act, thousands of projects were made available that involved logging our forests in the name of economic recovery and forest health. Once again, research has consistently shown that logging forests and turning trees into biomass and other energy sources is not healthy for the forests, land, water, species or ecosystem functions. There is no scientific evidence showing that forest thinning, biomass and jobs that boost the economy are good for the forests, rather the opposite is true.
The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act of 2009 (FLAME)
Congress passed the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act of 2009 (the FLAME act) as an effort to help "move the USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior toward a sustainable suppression funding mechanism better suited to deal with the escalating costs of fighting emergency fires" (firewise communitieswebpage). This legislation was drafted due to the Forest Service and the Department of Interior's funding mechanisms which force them to pay for firefighting out of their own budgets. When these agencies exceed what is set aside specifically for fires, they have to pull from other "non-fire" areas in their budget. This affects the money that was allocated for other means, specifically for what they term "preventative" measures such as thinning and "hazardous tree removal" rendering the Service unable to use that funding in their futile attempts to fireproof the forests. FLAME legislation established a separate account for funding emergency wildfire suppression activities in hopes it would end the need to draw from other funding sources when catastrophic fires erupt. This act also required the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a cohesive wildland fire management strategy. This report still has not been completed.
FLAME funding has been underfunded and has not, to this date, accomplished what the original intent was. However, the legislation is in place and is an attempt to keep funds for their original purpose of "managing the forests" for fire. This means the various extractive timber industries would have more money to "get the cut out" if these funds would once again open up for them to log forests in the name of mitigation, restoration and forest health. It is no big surprise that the industry is the biggest proponent of enforcing this legislation.
Farm Bill 2014
In the UnitedStates, every five years an omnibus Farm Bill is reviewed allocating a certain amount of funds to several different governmental programs. In February of 2014, the government passed the revised $1 trillion farm bill. Within the bill, there is a forestry chapter that reauthorizes forestry programs and governs the United States Forest Service. The 2014 forestry chapter, Title VII, permanently extended stewardship contracting as well as expanded "good-neighbor authority" on 193 million acres of National Forests allowing the Forest Service to designate logging (thinning and tree removal) in the name of "forest health and restoration." The bill expedites the Forest Service's permitting authority through increasing the Healthy Forest Restoration Act by giving the agency even more authority to bypass previously established environmental laws and judicial safeguards if areas in question are affected by insects or disease. This bill further allocates funding for private land owners to encourage them to thin more of their forested land with the oversight of the Forest Service. The newly revised Farm Bill effectively opens up more National Forests to the timber industry by expanding logging through available funding as well as giving the Forest Service legal authority to bypass previously established environmental laws in the name of "fire mitigation" and "forest health and restoration."
Budget Drives Forest Service Policy
The Forest Service was created by Teddy Roosevelt with the best of intentions to save what little was left of the Nation's forests before they were gone as a result of the greed in the timber industry and the growth economy of a nation. By basing the Forest Service on scientific management, a new era of rapid liquidation of the forests was underway but under the guise of conservation through the guided "management" of the Forest Service. Roosevelt never would have imagined his efforts in conservation would have ended up with 40 million of those acres he had hoped to conserve strip-mined and clear cut. From the beginning, the Forest Service creates policies based on the idea that the main purpose of forests is to supply timber for the growing Nation while economically benefiting industry. The Service focuses on management to prevent a "timber famine" so those industries can always rely on forest products for their economic stability. This way of perceiving land has dramatically altered, eliminated and damaged the once-intact ecosystems that sustained an incomprehensible diversity of plant and animal species that are now extinct because of that mindset. The profit-driven mentality causing this destruction is still alive and well within the Forest Service and Congress. Throughout the legislative history of the Forest Service, as is illustrated above, it is clear that budget drives the Forest Service and their policies. When the Forest Service is dependent upon the receipts it gets from timber sales and incentives the government gives the Service to increase logging, it will do what it needs to increase those sales. When environmental laws are passed in order to protect those ecologically significant forests, the industry and the service will do what is necessary to circumvent those laws in order to make a profit even though, in every single case, the government itself is out a huge amount of tax dollars to make those sales happen. As the Native Forest Council has stated: "Today we operate in a corporate cesspool of political corruption where bribery and graft have become so institutionalized that the American public and even many green groups are no longer outraged." It is time we changed that and insist that the forests are seen as an integral part of diversity and ecological health, with the understanding that what happens to these ecosystems will affect the health of current and future generations of all species, including ourselves.