Thoughts on the Forest Service, from 1970

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This week G. George Ostrom has selected a classic column from April 3, 1970.

As everyone should know, the biggest issue of today is preservation and restoration of our environment.

A very great responsibility for conservation lies upon the U.S. Forest Service, which holds administrative powers over millions of acres of public land.

The U.S. Forest Service is by nature hypersensitive to criticism and whenever its methods or programs are questioned by someone on the outside, it is monotonously wont to loftily question the scientific background of the critic, while issuing forth high sounding words whose definition it has “God like” declared.

I have observed this phenomenon for years and have watched many a well-motivated citizen wither and retreat from indignant smokescreens blowing down from Smokey Bear headquarters.

The over-milked and under-fed lumber cow has at last found some friends and the leader of this wondrous group is Dale Burk, state editor at the Missoulian. I think it’s great and should Dale or one of his many articulate supporters, find the time to write a book on this subject, I shall lend them my accumulated notes and files for whatever good it may do.

Such a book should also give long overdue credit to those within the Forest Service who truly believe in the multiple use concept and whose beliefs sometimes cost them promotions and even their jobs.

Silviculture is one of the least murky words used by the FS and it simply means “The art of producing and caring for a forest.”

The USFS considers itself THE expert on silviculture and it annually presents a solid-appearing public front as to its policies on silviculture; however, if you were to observe a secret high echelon meeting in Washington D.C., you would probably be reminded of a spastic octopus trying to rub its belly while patting its head.

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