College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

Jack Ward Thomas: "Forest Management Approaches on the the Public's Lands: Turmoil and Transition"

Forest Management Approaches on the the Public's Lands: Turmoil and Transition

Jack Ward Thomas

Shifting Values and Evolving Paradigms

What American society wants from its National Forests is evolving. The definition of resources, products, and services are changing. Societal demands derived from personal nonconsumptive values now rival traditional uses of the public's forest land. These changing values are altering the multiple-use concept, and interpretations of that concept are expanding.

It is clear now that forests are more than trees and that trees are more than timber. It is clear now that wildlife is more than animals to be hunted and that days spent in the woods are more than recreation. It is clear now that public concern over the forest transcends economic analysis and that costs and benefits of forest management decisions involve more, much more, than dollars and cents.

Land-Use Planning: Living and Learning

Over the past decade, land-use planning by the USDA Forest Service (FS) occurred coincidentally with a rapid evolution of concepts of appropriate forest management and policy. How can that be said of a process so drawn out, so fraught with controversy, and so deficient in developing a consensus among the participants as to appropriate forest policy. Yet, the planning process brought the FS and the nation face-to-face with new realities.

National Forest management issues evolved during this period from local, state, and regional concerns to national issues. The expansion in public interest in National Forest management beyond the western states containing the vast majority of these lands represents a continuing shift in political power applied to public land issues.

Traditional FS constituencies were recruited and cultivated around the multiple uses of forage (livestock grazing), wood (timber extraction), wildlife (hunting and fishing), recreation (camping and hiking), and water (downstream users). The agency is still basically organized along these lines. Each staff group at each organizational level has its own constituency and serves as the in-house care-taker of the interests of that constituency.

The assumption that "good" forestry is "good" for everything else has now been rejected (Bunnell 1976a and 1976b, Thomas 1979). The newest players in the forest planning game - inappropriately grouped together as "environmentalists" - are not monolithic in their views, interests, or approaches to forest management issues. They do, however, have deep and strongly expressed concerns over how their forests have been managed and demand changes. Working on five fronts - legislative, political, public affairs, legal, and personal involvement - they have been evermore successful in challenging the status quo. These groups, however, have not been recognized and claimed as a constituency by any of the FS staff groups.

Participation by interest groups in forest planning has proven difficult to organize, receive, evaluate, and act upon. Clearly, average citizens can not or will not devote the time necessary to participate effectively over the long haul. And, as the planning process dragged on for over a decade, many of the initial enthusiastic participants dropped out exhausted by the time required for meeting after meeting and review after review of documents that were increasingly technical and mathematical and evermore voluminous.

Some of the "hard cores" with abiding interest formed well-organized groups that grew and were molded into organizations with the aim of providing resources - political, technical, legal and financial - necessary to ensure increased effectiveness in the forest planning game over the long run. As these involved individuals formed themselves into organized advocacy groups, the professional gladiators came to dominate the arena of natural resource politics and planning, resource allocation, and management.

The process of exerting influence over the management of the public's forests has became steadily more adversarial, sophisticated, and expensive. Amateurs faded more and more into the background save for providing the resources for the gladiators.

Each extreme side, usually depending on who is protecting the status quo and holding the position of power, challenges the opponent to a game of "prove it" whenever the opponent proposes an alternative course of action. Those who can demand "prove it" have power. Those who must stand and deliver that proof have less. Too frequently, particularly when resolution is sought in the courts, the objective may be obfuscation of the issues - not clarification. Those who obfuscate have the weakest position. But, obfuscation occasionally produces victory in the courts or serves to convince constituents of the value of services rendered by the gladiator.

Scientists Off the Bench

The scientist's traditional role has been to conduct the research that provides the building blocks of knowledge and perform the synthesis of technical information which are used to construct foundations for natural resource management. Scientists, however, are now increasingly involved in developing or evaluating criteria for the guidance of forest management activities. This results from a desperate search for new participants in the natural resources management and planning game with some higher level of technical and political credibility than more traditional players now so thoroughly battered by the long, drawn-out, and increasingly contentious planning process.

How this increased participation by scientists in evaluation and planning will evolve is unclear. Clearly, though, when scientists produce results not in keeping with the desires of one extreme side or another in the debate, they will be instantly and fiercely attacked on their credibility, intelligence, motivations, and objectivity.

These attacks are exacerbated by the simple fact that the scientists can be individually identified and the attacks made personal. Scientists tend not to be faceless and nameless producers of plans. These attacks come as a shock to the minds and souls of innocents. Scientists have not been traditionally well-prepared for the management arena not having been to gladiator school in their formative years. Hard-won reputations are quickly put at stake. Standing in the arena with gladiators circling, looking for a weakness to attack is an experience neither eagerly sought nor relished by most scientists.

Scientists have much to offer in improving forest planning and management, but there is no panacea for conflict inherent in their participation. The public should not expect too much from scientists, for science is a method in the search for truth and not an infallible end result or a product. It will be quickly discerned by the spectators that any side in an intense debate over natural resource management processes and decisions can and will quickly turn up at least a few scientists to serve their cause by suggesting alternative courses of action or pointing out weaknesses in the present information or its analysis.

As a result, too many scientists are turning their backs on this "dirty business" of natural resource allocation and management. Such is the nation's loss. Yet, it will be increasingly harder for scientists to avoid the arena and to hide from the need and demand for applicable knowledge. This is an exacting, tough, mean, and bruising game. It is not a past time for wimps.

Adversarial Planning

Until the ranks of natural resource managers are filled with renaissance men and women - that is never - much improved collaboration among disciplines and interest groups will be required to achieve technically integrated, politically acceptable forest management. Collaboration, unfortunately, is the antithesis of the land-use planning process that has evolved to this point. Remember, gladiators paid by the extreme elements in the debate most commonly dominate the process. They, by nature, do not collaborate. They fight hard and, sometimes, dirty and they always fight to win. A gold medal has not yet been hung around one of these gladiator's neck in celebration of a well-executed collaboration.

Land-use planning based on such an adversarial approach inevitably produces results that please none of the participants. As with eating sausage, the end result is more easily digested if the process is not dwelled upon in detail.

Computers and Models: The Care and Feeding Thereof

The evolving dream that a computer, directed by an infallible model, when fed an adequate diet of appropriately, mixed and seasoned data will spew forth infallible answers for the planner's use is but an illusion. It always will be. There are neither sufficiently sophisticated models nor data of adequate quantity and quality to entice the beast to foolproof answers. But, these sophisticated tools can produce an illusion of accuracy and understanding that too often leads the attending priests to hubris. Caution is advised.

After all, models and computers are but bloodless tools. They do not suffer the consequences of their shortcomings nor of their misuse. These consequences are reserved for the people affected and the forest itself. When computers devour the offerings of data, perform the model's magic and then deliver results that do not ring true in the light of theory, empirical data, experience, common sense, and professional opinion, caution lights should flash and alarm bells ring.

Model "tweaking" is useful in testing for options and system response to changes in values for individual variables. Purposeful tweaking to enhance a selected output in a forest plan is a distortion of the process. Distorted outputs inevitably result from tweaking several variables in the same direction in an interactive model. Planners and analysts, when playing the "tweaking game," need to be extremely cautious in understanding and explaining the results of such exercises lest inappropriate modeling results creep into final forest plans.

A Contract? Did We Shake on That?

Forest plans indicate, among many other things, the intent to produce commodities at stated levels. This leads the harvesters, processors, and users of those commodities to make economic decisions and social commitments based on those projections. Whether intended or not, a "social contract," or at least a "political contract," is formed with constituencies upon the approval of such a plan.

The level of anticipated outputs that are quickly assumed to be promised by a powerful constituency can be reduced at some point in the future only at great economic, political, and social cost. Once such projections are made and interpreted as firm commitments by interest groups, those "promises" exert profound influence on all present as well as future planning and natural resource-allocation exercises. Therefore, each forest planning cycle begins, whether openly recognized or not by the planners or by the public, replete with the baggage carried along from the preceding plan(s). Over the long term, it is best for all concerned for the planners to be conservative in what is promised for the users to be cautious as to what is expected.

Betting on the Outcome? Monitor!

There is a growing tendency for planners and managers, when optimistic projections of goods and services to be produced are made in a forest plan, to promise research or monitoring activities adequate to quickly detect if the results forecast are indeed occurring. There are great risks in making or accepting such promises too readily. The offering of intense monitoring as a mitigation for a management action that has a high probability of adverse effects is a wholly inappropriate use of monitoring.

Do adequate techniques exist?

What will the monitoring cost?

Have protocols been developed and tested?

What are the critical indicators?

What are the thresholds in critical values for deciding if a change in management course is necessary?

Are trained personnel available?

Can they be acquired?

Are resources to support such monitoring apt to be forthcoming?

If not, what then?

Monitoring to acquire data adequate for risk analysis and attendant decision making is apt to be expensive - probably far more expensive than now anticipated (Verner 1983, Cooperrider et al. 1986, Thomas and Verner 1986). Lag effects must be considered. That is, the process being monitored may have adverse effects sooner or more dramatic than the monitoring can reveal - i.e., damage may be done before it can be detected. This will be particularly worrisome when monitoring the cumulative effects of several interacting activities which are unknown or poorly understood.

Series of measurements over many years may be required to distinguish between changes due to "normal" seasonal or yearly perturbations and those attributable to the management activity. Promises to monitor made to allay concerns over a perceived risky course of action should be rigorously assessed as to their validity and chances of being followed to completion. Monitoring does not and will not substitute for wise and conservative planning for management of natural resources.

Complexity: It Just Keeps Growing

Introspective natural resource managers are increasingly aware that their understanding of forest ecosystems is rudimentary and inadequate. Such recognition begs caution in management. As Frank Egler said, "Nature is not only more complex than we think. It is more complex than we can think." (Jenkins 1977). There seems, over the centuries, to be an abhorrence of leaving a cushion, a margin for error, an allowance for ignorance when natural resources exploitation is designed and carried out. Exceeding the limits of biological systems, even rarely, often produces resource damage that cannot be fully repaired.

The political and legal cloud that swirls around natural resource management is likewise complex. This complexity seems to increase steadily with rapid shifting of public opinion, formulation of new laws, periodic court opinions, and surges of gladiators in the arena. Forest plans are constructed on sands that are ever shifting economically, technically, socially, politically, and legally. These increasingly quick shifts produce a quandary, because such quick movements are the antithesis of the stability that natural resource managers and the public need for developing a long-term vision of decades and centuries.

Planning: Bottom Up and Top Down and Bottom Up and...

Upon superficial examination, forest planning seems to have been largely "bottom up" in nature. Each National Forest developed a plan considering the ecological, social, and economic circumstances unique to that administrative unit. The estimates of goods and services to come from each Forest added up to the "Regional" commitment and the Regions summed to the national situation. Clearly stated desired outcomes dealt with the amount of commodity products, particularly timber, that could be produced.

Thus, the most firm of the "hard target" commitments in the plans, short and long term, were the timber targets. The "soft targets" included such items as recreation and fish and wildlife objectives. The in-house FS slang about "hard" and "soft" targets were not without operational meaning when managers were evaluated. The baggage from previous plans was on board, labeled by constituency, when the planning train left the station.

This is not surprising considering the evolved importance of the annual sale quantity of timber to regional economies and to the largely rural, often isolated, natural resource dependent communities located in or near National Forests. The welfare of these communities is the legitimate concern of elected officials - and all politics are indeed local. Furthermore, the FS has a policy of aiding in the creation and maintenance of "community stability" in such circumstances. This situation led, over the decades, to wood production being recognized as foremost among the multiple uses. The other multiple uses were not ignored but, in essence, evolved to operate as constraints on the production of wood or they were assumed to be automatically accrued by-products of appropriately modified forestry practices carried out primarily to produce or harvest timber.

Each forest plan, along with its "preferred management alternative," had to pass muster at the regional and national levels. Plans were commonly remanded to originators for "tweaking" - most commonly to see if the projected timber yields could be improved. Some plans required several such reviews with the result of increased projections for timber yields. This lead to the situation where a significant number of such forest plans are now being considered for revision to bring anticipated outputs of wood product more in line with the dictates of experience that have arisen in carrying out the plans.

Bottom-up planning with top-down grading may have made sense when the planning process started over a decade ago. But times and circumstances change as experience accumulates. The next planning cycle should be modified in the light of experience.

Too Many Signals Can Cause Train Wrecks

Over the past decade or so, as the forest planning process proceeded apace and plans were instituted, new societal and scientific concerns came forcibly to the fore. These concerns went by such names as threatened and endangered species, biodiversity retention, long-term site productivity, and ecosystem sustainability. As a result, land-use planning and National Forest management will never again be the same.

There is a clear trend (Thomas 1987) in the thrust of laws (USDA 1983) that influence National Forest management in the United States toward increased concern with what has been grouped as "environmental concerns." The Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act of 1960 (MUSY), The Wilderness Act of 1964 (WA), The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (WSRA), the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA),The Clean Water Amendments of 1972 (CWA), The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA), and The National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA), each added increasing emphasis to mandates to be concerned with a broadened concept, beyond commodity production, of the management of the National Forests.

Each Act and the subsequent federal court decisions that scored the agencies attempts to obey these laws turned the screw tighter. The thrust was clear - National Forest management will ensure attention to multiple use, to Wilderness, and to wild and scenic rivers. All proposed management actions will be analyzed for environmental and economic effects, management plans will deal with the retention of diversity in plant and animal communities and rare forms of plant and animal life will be protected.

MUSY, RPA, and NFMA all required and directed attention to multiple uses, even to multiple values, but the emphasis on the production and harvest of wood products remained as foremost among equals. WA and WSRA created new land classifications, whereas NEPA and ESA directed emphasis to environmental concerns. Over time, increasingly frequent and violent collisions have occurred in the form of legal challenges to management actions resulting from attempts to comply with these acts and maintain past levels of commodity production. Some collisions have been particularly dramatic and revealing.

The Owl Called Our Name

The unfolding drama of the listing of the northern spotted owl as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1990 (Anderson et al. 1990) and the pending development of a recovery plan for that subspecies, promised for fall 1992, are critical to understanding the current forces acting on National Forest management.

This is but one example of the trials and tribulations of federal land management agencies trying to respond to the citizenry's changing values as expressed in law after law without dramatically altering the traditional levels of commodity production.

The still unfolding drama over the owl may well go down in conservation history as the classic example of the collision caused by the interactions of MUSY, RPA, NFMA, NEPA, and ESA and their effect on the evolution of the management of the National Forests. It is a moment of truth - a watershed of national values.

Before the owl was listed as "threatened," all the conservation strategies proposed for the owl were ultimately judged by the FS on their ability to satisfy the regulation issued pursuant to NFMA to maintain all vertebrate species in a viable state and well distributed within their ranges on the National Forests (USDA 1988, Thomas et al. 1990). After the owl was declared threatened, all plans were additionally evaluated as to whether the intent of the ESA was satisfied" provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species may be conserved...."

Every one of the three strategies proposed to date has been more expensive in terms of opportunity costs and social impact. This is also true of the draft on the Recovery Plan that was completed in January of 1991 (U.S. Dept. of Interior 1992). Each prepared strategy has, in turn, caused increasingly severe political distress.

A Conservation Strategy for the Northern Spotted Owl (Thomas et al. 1990), developed by the Interagency Scientific Committee (ISC, has been estimated to cause job losses ranging from well less than 2,000 (by economists funded by environmental groups) to well over 140,000 (by economists funded by the timber industry), depending on the assumptions made and, perhaps, the predictions of the analysts (Rasmussen 1989, Bueter 1990, Gillis 1990, Greber et al. 1990, Hamilton et al. 1990, Olson 1990).

These estimated job losses are coupled with predictions of severe social distress (Lee 1990). The FS has been operating "in a manner not inconsistent with" the ISC strategy since late 1990.

The ISC anticipated immediate analysis of economic and social impacts of their proposed strategy. They also asked for a detailed analysis of other factors such as water quality and quantity, biodiversity retention, soils, scenic values, recreation, and other wildlife species affected (Thomas et al. 1990). No such analyses have occurred.

The FS's Environmental Impact Statement released in January 1992, in which the ISC plan was recognized as the "preferred alternative" for formal adoption, only superficially examined those aspects (USDA Forest Service 1992).

The Fish and Wildlife Services draft recovery plan was consistent in ignoring such analyses (U.S. Dept. of Interior 1992). Can a truly informed decision be made with analyses limited to the effect on a single subspecies of owl and the attendant economic and social impacts? To do so trivializes the issue. The issues involved are much greater than that and always have been. Why pretend otherwise?

The ESA, in retrospect, was but a first, rather simple, straightforward attempt toward the retention of biodiversity. The NEPA, additionally, required that all Federal actions be evaluated as to their environmental consequences. Regulations issued pursuant to the NFMA required maintenance of viable populations of all native and desired non-native vertebrate species well distributed within the National Forests where they occur.

The spotted owl situation arose from the interaction of these requirements of the ESA, NFMA, and NEPA with attempts to retain the status quo of timber primacy in Forest Service planning actions. After several aborted attempts, it is now being recognized that it simply couldn't be done.

The political distress caused by the specter of adoption of the ISC strategy was immediate and profound at state, regional and national levels. The owl issue has become synonymous in some minds with the debate over the future of the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. While the two issues obviously are related, they also may be quite different.

AHA! Things Are Not What They Seem

Perhaps, further down line, it will be possible to discern exactly the attributes of owl habitat. If so, perhaps such habitat can be provided through innovative silviculture (Thomas et al. 1990).

Aha! So it is simply a question of habitat for spotted owls. If we can provide for owls with appropriate silviculture, there will be no need for reserving mature and old-growth forests. But, on the other hand, other species of plants and animals have evolved with or are disproportionately associated with old-growth. Some of these species will, almost certainly, end up in threatened status.

Aha! This is not only a question about owl habitat. It is, really, a question of old-growth management. But, the attributes of old-growth that provide the niches that support the animal species interact in mysterious ways to make up a forest ecosystem.

Aha! So, it is not really an old-growth question. It is an ecosystem question.

But, increasing knowledge indicates that the sizes, distribution, and connectivity between habitat patches are critical variables to consider in ensuring that the peculiar ecosystem retains the full inherent complement of species and ecological processes (Thomas 1979, Nass 1983, Harris 1984, and Probst and Crow 1991).

Aha! The issue is not just an ecosystem question. It is an ecosystem question and at landscape scale.

But, some people devoted to the preservation of old growth know or care little about the biological aspects of the issue. They simply see great beauty in the old-growth forests. Some perceive a spiritual value in the contact with and the existence of such forests.

Aha! So, it is not only a question of biological attributes but also of aesthetic and spiritual values.

But, if it is an ecosystem question that must be addressed at the landscape scale, what must this landscape accommodate? There are people in that landscape - part and parcel along with the plantations, the "ancient cathedral" forests, clearcuts, the elk and owls, and the streams and fish.

These people have desires, differing values, and untold aspirations that demand satisfaction. Each sees and wants different things from the landscape of which they too are part. And, they want their children and grandchildren to have these same things.

Aha! Then it really is an ecosystem sustainability question at a geographic scale where protection of nature, the production of goods and services for people, and the lifestyles of forest users must strike an enduring balance.

How do we do that?

What Do We Do Now, Coach?

The opportunity, social, and political costs of adopting the ISC habitat conservation strategy, or any other such strategy, that will be both scientifically credible and legally sufficient, are dramatic - -perhaps significant enough to stimulate political action.

The first option might be to weaken the ESA or NFMA or NEPA or all three.

The second option might be to somehow use the Exemption Committee (the "God Squad") provided for in the ESA to exempt the owl from protection or to weaken that protection so that the social and economic effects are dampened. The God Squad has been called into action and the process is ongoing to determine if 44 timber sales proposed by Bureau of Land Management and judged by the FWS to create jeopardy for the owl should proceed.

The third option might be yet another "legislative fix" to restore, at least temporarily, some order and predictability to the timber supply situation in the Pacific Northwest, while giving some protection to the spotted owl. This is now being discussed. Such fixes have, in the past, been temporary and controversial, did not provide stability, and are apt to increase problems - short or long term.

No one professes to like such short-term solutions. But ongoing political, social, legal, scientific, and governmental activities may now be so hopelessly entangled, that the quick legislative fix - however temporary and risky in nature - becomes increasingly attractive. Short-term fixes, unfortunately, ease the political pressure for developing and adopting a long-term solution.

The fourth option may be legislative action to establish a system of late successional and old growth reserves and declare the issue solved, That seems unlikely in 1992.

The fifth option might be to fully follow the course prescribed in law as recently clarified by the Federal District Courts (Zilly 1991 and Dwyer 199 1) and accept the political, social, and economic disruption that will prevail during the time until such processes are complete. It is anticipated that a formal recovery plan for the spotted owl, as mandated by the ESA, will not be complete until fall 1992 under the best of circumstances.

Uncertainty will prevail until then. What the final recovery plan will entail is unknown. But if past is prologue, the costs will increase yet one more time and the controversy will not end there.

The gladiators will not retire from the arena. And, lawyers will do what lawyers do as long as the money lasts. Some lawmakers and natural resource managers recognize that other species are awaiting consideration for listing as threatened. And, some of these species will be listed. The debilitating social and political turmoil that will arise anew in the aftermath of species after species being listed is anticipated with increasing dread.

Gladiators and lawyers thrive on turmoil and are at their best in such melee. But political leaders and the people do not thrive on such a free-for-all too long sustained. This is particularly true when the same kinds of lose/lose issues must be confronted over and over again. This leads to the evermore frequently heard cry:

"There must be a better way."

Addressing the preservation and recovery of one threatened or endangered species after another will, ultimately, become too burdensome for society and its political and legal processes to bear.

That consternation leads to the possibility of another option. In that option it is recognized that the scientific debate has evolved from questions about individual species in site-specific places to larger questions of the survival of ecosystems and their attendant plant and animal communities in some sustainable array on the landscape.

Stands to Ecosystems to Landscapes

What was not feasible five years ago is possible now - an attempt to conserve biodiversity through ecosystem management at landscape scale. Such an approach does not have to start from scratch. The scientific principles are there, the necessary technology exists and is improving, and the political climate is changing (Salwasser 1988). And, most importantly, the federal lands are there to form the framework for at least rudimentary ecosystem management at landscape scale (Agee and Johnson 1988, Thomas and Salwasser 1989).

It is time to consider land use in broader context than a series of single-use allocations to address specific problems or pacify the most vocal constituencies. How do the current land allocations and management prescriptions fit together to form an interactive sustainable biological entity? We must find out or continue to thrash about ineffectually.

We simply cannot continue along our present path of dealing with the assured welfare of individual species (Huttle et al. 1987, Scott et al. 1987) as constraints and outputs of goods and services as objectives. The questions are bigger and more complex than that. The political, economic, and social costs are mounting rapidly - perhaps to limits of political tolerance. We stand on shaky ground and must either step back from the commitments in the ESA, NEPA and NFMA or move on to an expanded concept more in keeping with current scientific thinking and capability and developing societal values and demands.

Forests: For Whom and For What?

Marion Clawson (1975) wrote a book with a question for a title: Forests for Whom and for What? He suggested a framework for forest policy analysis which included:

physical and biological feasibility and consequences;
economic efficiency;
economic welfare or equity;
social or cultural acceptability; and
operational or administrative practicality.
I believe that analyzing the status quo and the alternative political options described earlier by Clawson's criteria would argue that moving to consideration of ecosystems at landscape should be now seriously considered.

New Land Classifications? Whoops!

The unfolding circumstances are, inadvertently, creating two new land-use classifications. These are 11 ecological reserves," within which all forest management activities may continue that are compatible with the purpose of the reserve, and, "intensive timber production lands," in which the primary focus will be on wood production with constraints appropriate to ensure the sustained capacity to produce wood products.

There will, undoubtedly, be attempts arising from political frustration to legislate the timber production areas and perhaps the ecological reserves into existence to provide a quid pro quo between interest groups. Whether or not such establishment in law is wise will and should be vigorously debated. In practical terms, the same result may occur as a matter of course.

Before these land-use classifications are put into law, it may be prudent to fully consider the ramifications of adopting a new planning and management approach as an alternative (Karr 1990). New laws, after all, often cause more problems than they solve.

This new approach would identify forest sustainability for recognized values and uses as the foremost goal of National Forest management and use the conservation of biodiversity as a mechanism to that end (Salwasser 1990b). Such an approach will require consideration of the conservation of ecosystems and their processes at the landscape level (Grumbine 1990).

Of Cogs and Wheels and Ethics, Too

Aldo Leopold (1953:147) observed that, if our tinkering with nature was to be an intelligent process with maximum chance of long-term success, care should be taken to "save all the cogs and wheels." The ESA was a first step. The NFMA and its accompanying regulations were a second stop. It is time to expand on the concept, with or without legislation, to emphasis on the conservation of biodiversity (Blockstein 1988, 1989) and preservation of ecosystems (Hutto 1989). Legislation may or may not be helpful.

There seems to me to be no shortage of legislative instruction, only a scarcity of effective and willing compliance (Karr 1991). The species-by-species approach prescribed by the ESA will still be applicable in certain cases, but such is not adequate to move us to where the unfolding drama of forest land planning and management logically leads. We must learn to prevent the creation of threatened species rather than performing heroic management, feats to pull species back from the brink of extinction once they are declared "threatened."

People Are Owls, Too

Our society, at long last, seems to be moving toward the implementation of a land ethic. Leopold (1949:224-225) suggested an ethic in which:

"...a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

The land ethic is still emerging (Linnartz et at. 1991). Such an ethic must be developed and applied with Clawson's question of, "forests, for whom and for what?" ringing in our ears.

The most vexing of the problems to be faced in developing a useful ethic will be linking all that is implied in the "forests-for-whom-and-for-what" question with the biological capabilities of the land in determining forest policy and management.

The evolving ethic, a human concept after all, must include the needs and desires of people. That implies the provision of goods, products, and services from the land in addition to requirements for the retention of the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. Leopold's vision of what such an ethic might entail must be expanded to account for conserving biodiversity, attention to economic stability, preservation of productivity, and sustainable provision of good and services - simultaneously.

That seems a tall order, but we are further down that trail - intellectually, ethically and technically - than ever before. And, the path not yet taken stretches ahead.

Not in Our Stars But in Ourselves

Our experience with comprehensive planning for National Forests and the sudden imposition of broadscale alterations in completed forest plans in response to requirements of the ESA have taught several lessons.

First, the National Forests cannot maintain the production of commodity products at traditional levels and meet the mandates imposed by the MUSY, NEPA, CWA, ESA, and RPA.

Second, the limits of these laws are to be tested at high risk and at high costs in the Federal Courts in terms of dollars and credibility - i.e., the FS loses much more frequently than it wins in court.

Third, addressing the conservation of biodiversity by means of the ESA is producing high levels of political frustration and is not adequately addressing the underlying concern to conserve biodiversity.

Fourth, National Forest management is predicated at an inappropriate scale. We now see that we should be dealing with forest management in an ecosystem context and at landscape scale if conservation of biodiversity is of concern.

Fifth, that landscape contains people whose desires and needs must be considered and satisfied to the extent possible.

Sixth, the next round of planning should be conducted with those points in mind.
In moving to a broader concept, planning and management can help, but they are only parts of an evolving solution. The other changes - perhaps the most important must take place within all those involved in determining what happens to our forests.

Will the path we have been on for 50 years take us and our forests to a desired future state?

Consider the following. The first word in the pairs of words is where we have been and are. The second word is what we need to cultivate within ourselves to do a better collaborative job of stewardship. These word pairs are:

rain in g-education;
short term-long term;
clever-wise; and
But, the fighting goes on and accelerates infrequency and intensity. The people, our sense of community, and the forest are bruised and battered in the process. The gladiators never tire of the fight - it is what they do. The fight itself provides their sustenance. I detect, however, that many concerned about forests we collectively own have long since approached exhaustion.

That may be good news, for with exhaustion, there may come a willingness to seek an answer to the statement made earlier, "There must be a better way."

That better way can be built on new knowledge and past experiences and on changes in personal and societal concepts. And, that better way can be embraced because the old way has led us to a place where we cannot stand for long.

Shakespeare said (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2) "...the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..."

If the fault lies within us, the solution also resides in us as well.


1 The opinions expressed are those of the author and should neither be attributed to nor interpreted as representing the views of the USDA Forest Service. This paper is a much modified version of a presentation to the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Edmonton, Ontario, Canada, in March 1991.

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Introducing: Jack Ward Thomas

It is the University's privilege that Dr. Jack Ward Thomas is the 31st Horace Marden Albright Lecturer in Conservation.

Dr. Thomas is one of the nation's leading wildlife biologists. His career in wildlife began in 1957 when he was appointed as a Wildlife Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and he served in that position until 1966. He then took up a position as Research Wildlife Biologist with the USDA Forest Service at Morgantown, West Virginia, and at Amherst, Massachusetts, where he remained until 1975. Within this period, he completed a masters degree in Wildlife Management at West Virginia University and a doctorate in Forestry (Natural Resources Planning Option) from the University of Massachusetts which he obtained in 1972. His current position is Team Leader and Chief Research Wildlife Biologist, Range and Wildlife Habitat Research, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Experiment Station, La Grande, OR. He is also currently as Adjunct Professor at Oregon State University, Eastern Oregon State College, Washington State University, and the University of Idaho.

Dr. Thomas is the author of some 275 publications, primarily in the areas of elk, deer, and turkey biology, wildlife disease, wildlife habitat, songbird ecology, northern spotted owl management, and land-use planning. He is also the author of several award-winning books including:

The Elk of North America - Ecology and Management

Wildlife Habitats in Managed Forests - The Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington

Wildlife Habitats in Managed Rangelands - The Great of Southeastern Oregon, and

A Conservation Strategy for the Northern Spotted Owl

Dr. Thomas has received numerous awards. In addition to 11 in the 1970s and 80s, he has already been selected for eight awards in the first two years of this decade:

  • Superior Service Award, USDA
  • Honorary Membership, the Wildlife Society
  • Group Achievement Award, The Wildlife Society
  • National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Achievement Award for Science
  • Oregon Academy of Sciences, Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Society for Conservation Biology, Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Giraffe Award, The Giraffe Society
  • The Aldo Leopold Medal, The Wildlife Society

These awards recognize Dr. Thomas' outstanding contributions to wildlife management, the most recent of which has been his leadership in evaluating the complex and controversial inter-relationships between the northern spotted owl and its forest environment.

- John A. Helms, Department Chair