11 Jan 2011, 11:15am
Federal forest policy Politics and politicians
by admin

McClintock On the Royal USFS

Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA, 4th District) delivered the following remarks Friday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives [text and video here]:

House Chamber, Washington, D.C. January 7, 2011.

M. Speaker:

Much of my district comprises forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Over the last two years, I have received a growing volume of complaints protesting the increasingly exclusionary and elitist policies of this agency.

These complaints charge the Forest Service, among other things, with:

* Imposing inflated fees that are forcing the abandonment of family cabins held for generations;

* Charging exorbitant new fees that are closing down long-established community events upon which many small and struggling mountain towns depend for tourism;

* Expelling long-standing grazing operations on specious grounds – causing damage both to the local economy and the federal government’s revenues; and

* Obstructing the sound management of our forests through a policy that can only be described as benign neglect, creating both severe fire dangers and massive unemployment.

Practiced in the marketplace, we would renounce these tactics as predatory and abusive. In the public service sector, they are intolerable.

Combined, these actions evince an ideologically driven hostility to the public’s enjoyment of the public’s land – and a clear intention to deny the public the responsible and sustainable use of that land.

Most recently, the Forest Service has placed severe restrictions on vehicle access to the Plumas National Forest, despite volumes of public protests. Supervisor Bill Connelly, Chairman of the Butte County Board of Supervisors writes that “The restriction applies to such activities as: collecting firewood, retrieving game, loading or unloading horses or other livestock, and camping.” He writes, “The National Forests are part of the local fabric. The roads within the National Forests are used by thousands of residents and visitors for transportation and recreation. These activities generate revenue for our rural communities, which are critical for their survival.”

This is not a small matter. The Forest Service now controls 193 million acres within our nation – a land area equivalent to the size of Texas.

During the despotic eras of Norman and Plantagenet England, the Crown declared one third of the land area of Southern England to be the royal forest, the exclusive preserve of the monarch, his forestry officials and his favored aristocrats. The people of Britain were forbidden access to and enjoyment of these forests under harsh penalties. This exclusionary system became so despised by the people that in 1215, five clauses of the Magna Carta were devoted to redress of grievances that are hauntingly similar to those that are now flooding my office.

Mr. Speaker, the attitude that now permeates the U.S. Forest Service from top to bottom is becoming far more reminiscent of the management of the royal forests during the autocracy of King John than of an agency that is supposed to encourage, welcome, facilitate and maximize the public’s use of the public’s land in a nation of free men and women.

After all, that was the vision for the Forest Service set forth by its legendary founder, Gifford Pinchot in 1905: “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”

In May of 2009 and April of 2010, some of my California colleagues and I sent letters to the Forest Service expressing these concerns. I have also personally met with senior officials of that agency on several occasions in which I have referenced more than 500 specific complaints of Forest Service abuses received by my office.

All that I have received to date from these officials are smarmy assurances that they will address these concerns – assurances that their own actions have belied at every turn.

It is time for Congress to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the abuses by this increasingly unaccountable and elitist agency, to demand accountability for the damage it has done – and is doing – to our forests’ health, to the public’s trust, to the government’s revenues and to the nation’s economy – and to take whatever actions are necessary to restore an attitude of consumer-friendly public service which was Gifford Pinchot’s original vision and for which the U.S. Forest Service was once renowned and respected.

11 Jan 2011, 4:58pm
by Chauncy

Thank you Congressman Tom McClintock. It’s about time someone in Congress recognizes the poor management of our national forests. Let’s hope they do the right thing. They can start by reading some of the W.I.S.E. educational postings. Maybe W.I.S.E. can make environmental realists out of a few members of the government.

Besides complaints from constituents, I’ll bet SOS Forests had a lot to do with helping the Congressman notice the problem. Squeaky wheels get the grease.

P.S. Congressman, Don’t delay, vote to repeal Obamacare now!!!!

11 Jan 2011, 5:25pm
by Randy S.

Concerning Congressman McClintock’s figure of 193 million acres under FS control (figures range from 193 to slightly over 200 million acres depending on source), I wonder if he considers what percentage of those federal owned lands actually produce federal, state, and local revenue vs. the special designated lands (and future proposed special designations) that are hamstringing forested communities and our nation’s ability to remain solvent.

McClintock’s charge of “elitist policies” strikes the very heart of the agency. However, I find it business as usual when the Senate and House have little to say about their own hands in [the current state of affairs].

Access to federally owned timber and other natural resource opportunities on Federal lands are few and far between. It is so much easier to blame USFS officials for policies that were driven by Congressional and Executive edicts in the first place and later horsed around by Judicial legislative activism.

Hopefully, Rep. Jerry Lewis and Rep. Ken Calvert (both CA) heard their California compadre on the floor of the House and will act in such a way as to follow a good friend’s thought when he recently wrote, “When it comes to managing the forests [Congress] could take the approach to incentivize the agency to only get increased funds, or even maintain what they are now getting, by developing programs to bring a return to the Treasury. I might add, it should be real return in $$$…”

And I couldn’t agree more regardless of whether BLM or USFS managed forestland.

11 Jan 2011, 6:20pm
by Chuck F.

Many thanks for posting this! I believe the most expedient way to save our forests, for future generations, from the evils of the roadless “let it burn” policies, is to make the people and Congress aware of the fact that fire smoke, when inhaled, is a toxic causal agent for 21 different kinds of cancer.

Yes, let’s now talk about health care and air quality. That seems to be such a touchy an issue among those who are allowing our forests to burn.

The cancer research mentioned above was done by the University of Cincinnati after examining the health records of 10,000 fire fighters. The general public is surely at risk and the truth needs to be made known.

Read more my recent book, House of Lords: America in the Balance [here, here].

Kindest regards to W.I.S.E.,

Chuck F. (Charles W. Frank)

12 Jan 2011, 7:39am
by Jim D.

And it’s not just CA. Our “public servants” here in MT are doing the same thing. They won’t be happy until the public is completely excluded from using its own land. We need to replace the whole lot of them with old school foresters who believe in multiple use management.

12 Jan 2011, 5:19pm
by bear bait

Now that the boomers are on line and are turning 65 this year, only to learn that you really need to wait about another year and a half to get full wally SSI, we see the nostalgia machine being turned on for public consumption. All the old teenage tunes from the sixties. Drive ins and bobby sox. That kind of deal. My nostalgia is for the old time USFS District Ranger. He was a force in the community. Served on local committees for this or that. Many times a member of the school board. An honest guy who was above reproach. A cool hand in a tough go. A person who got things done and expected as much from others. Always dressed in clothes that could be used to work in and always ready to make a hard decision. My nostalgia is for that guy. The man in charge when things worked and so did people. My how far we have come from that!!!

I have a friend who has about 40 people pruning for him. And the work has slowed down because the workers can see the end of the job, and there is nothing on the plate after that. So they are attempting to stretch it out. Bad decision. He told me that the ten slowest and lowest producers will be looking for work after Friday. And the next week, the next ten slowest and lowest producers will get their pink slip. He thinks that he will finish on time with the twenty left. They will be flying right at it.

My kid is a logger. They are in the brush with a choker in hand at 7:00am when their time starts. And they walk out on the company time and there had better be all hands aboard the crummy at 4:01, because the bus will spitting rocks as it begins the rocket ship ride to town and home. They don’t start a minute late. Mostly a minute or two early. And they don’t dawdle when the day is over. In between it is all assholes and elbows, and strong young men running to grab the snares when the trolley stops, and young men running for their lives when the rigging slinger blows three to send the turn to the landing. No fat asses staying that way. They sign on to work, and work they do.

I see no sign of that in the public sector. No imperative to work to survive. No fear of being left in the dust. Just a bunch of ravens around the roadkill called a government job. They jump and make a racket when an eagle sails in to grab a bite, but still are more witness than participant in the dance of life. If you wonder why there are no jobs, all the money went to the regulators, and they made it so the job creators went elsewhere to some place with fewer ravens and less roadkill.



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