A history of mismanagement

When it comes to the sorry state of our public forests, lay blame on the U.S. Forest Service

The author is a local activist, artist and environmentalist.

Since its creation in 1905, the United States Forest Service has allowed millions of acres of public forests to be logged and clear-cut by private corporations like Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). SPI states that it plants five trees for every one removed, but the company neglects to mention that the herbicides used to control undergrowth and allow these saplings to survive to adulthood have poisoned the forest floors and public waterways, all with full approval of the USFS. The detrimental effects of these herbicides to the environment, wildlife and human health are well-substantiated.

The U.S. Forest Service would like to see all public forests “thinned” through short-sighted initiatives like the so-called Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA), put in place in 2003 to deal with wildfires, 90 percent of which have been caused by humans.

The HFRA has been called “an ugly, imperfect solution that may cause more harm than good.” It opened up state and national forests to the logging of not only smaller-diameter trees, but also of old-growth trees that actually help to control the intensity of wildfires. Now Gov. Jerry Brown plans to double the amount of this type of “thinning” allowed on public lands. Much of the lumber will most likely be exported to countries like China ($95 billion in U.S. lumber exports in 2017) while lumber prices in the United States only continue to rise.

We’ve already witnessed the effects of the forest service’s practice of total fire suppression. Now we’ll have to wait to see how the HFRA’s ill-planned and executed forest “thinning” projects will play out.

In years to come, it undoubtedly will be seen as yet another huge bungle by the U.S. Forest Service in its duty to protect our public forests and a huge boon to private logging company interests. Environmentalist obstructionism isn’t the problem. To figure out who’s responsible for the mess our public forests are currently in, one need only look to the U.S. Forest Service for over a century of gross forest mismanagement.