Excellent idea

Forest Service May Move to Interior – washingtonpost.com:

Among some lawmakers who hold the purse strings, there is a belief that the U.S. Forest Service is out of place.

The 103-year-old agency, which manages 193 million acres of forests and grasslands, is part of the Department of Agriculture. Its bureaucratic cousins — the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, which manage 84 million acres, 96 million acres and 258 million acres of public land, respectively — are in the Interior Department. ?

At the request of the House Appropriations subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies, the Government Accountability Office this month began examining whether it would make sense to move the Forest Service to Interior’s purview. ?

One argument in favor of such a move is that the Forest Service no longer is chiefly devoted to managing the harvesting of timber.

“Today the evolution of our forests has gone away from production and more towards preservation, and it seems to me that the natural move has made it over under the umbrella of the Department of the Interior rather than the Department of Agriculture,” Rep. Todd Tiahrt (Kan.), the top Republican on the subcommittee, said at a Feb. 12 hearing on the agency.

This is a move that’s been pushed by environmentalists for a long time. While the Forest Service is tasked with managing lands for multiple uses, its presence in the Department of Agriculture has meant that it tends to favor industrial harvest and livestock grazing over recreational uses.

The only things that scare me about this are:

  1. George Bush will screw this up.
  2. Todd Tiahrt would not recognize a good idea if Rush Limbaugh personally mailed it to him.

I suppose that somehow or other, common sense may have battered its way past Todd Tiahrt’s many defenses, and the reorganization probably wouldn’t take effect until the country is under new management. So we’ll count this as a good idea that could just sail through Congress, and actually improve the management of natural places.

As it stands, National Parks (administered by the Department of Interior) are generally surrounded by National Forests (administered by Department of Agriculture). The agencies clearly have to cooperate on fire plans, but they also have to work together as they manage endangered species habitat and plan for hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and other recreational activities. It’s pretty clear that there are savings to be achieved by simplifying planning and management of those and other shared needs. It would also make it more likely that the management of natural resources would be in the hands of folks with a background in conservation, rather than the agriculture or timber industries.

Comments

  1. #1 Umlud
    March 25, 2008

    Is there any statement of a time-line for this to happen? What are the legislative bill numbers?

  2. #2 Josh Rosenau
    March 25, 2008

    I think they are currently getting a cost assessment from GAO, and we might see legislation down the line.

  3. #3 Umlud
    March 25, 2008

    Cheers!

  4. #4 Tom - Daai Tou Laam
    March 26, 2008

    I’m with you on not trusting Tiahrt.

    I’m wondering if the Republicans are betting that they’ve hosed Interior so badly with Abramoff and friends, that all of the King’s men and all of the King’s horses couldn’t put Interior back together again.

  5. #5 FastLane
    March 26, 2008

    I had to do a double take when I saw Tiahrt’s name associated with a statment that made sense…

    *Checks the calendar* No, it’s not April 1st….

    Who are you and what did you do with the real Todd Tiahrt?? =)

    It does make sense though. Hope this goes through. I remember having some issues with this when I was doing volunteer work for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. We had to get two separate permits to get into the national park/national forest land to do trail maintainence.

    Cheers.

  6. #6 Blaeloch
    March 27, 2008

    Three colleagues and I submitted the letter below to the Wash Post about this proposal–the letter has not been and probably will not be published. If you have worked with agencies in Interior, you know that in fact they are not conservation-oriented. The Park Service, in particulkar, has a reputation for being a benign agency, but it’s as firmly enslaved by corporate interests as any government agency……

    [BEGINNING OF LETTER]

    The assertion in the article by Christopher Lee that moving the Forest Service to the Department of Interior would make it more preservation-oriented—and therefore, supported by environmentalists— is a gross oversimplification. Interior has a legacy of scandal, from Teapot Dome to the disappearance of tribal trust monies, to lies about “science.” Even the National Park Service is largely “captured” by corporate concessionaires. With roots in the General Land Office, Interior has a sorry history of land and resource giveaways.

    The Forest Service and the Agriculture Department have their own problems, but changing addresses and creating One Big Agency won’t fix what ails either of these troubled agencies. What is needed is a revitalized commitment to our public lands and a budget to support that commitment. The ongoing effort to privatize, commercialize, commodify, and homogenize the public lands and those who are charged with their stewardship must be stopped.

    Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater-Moscow, ID George Nickas, Wilderness Watch-Missoula, MT
    Scott Silver, Wild Wilderness- Bend, OR
    Janine Blaeloch, Western Lands Project-Seattle, WA

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