Clean | Green | Sustainable

FS Retiree on Tester Bill: Gutting the Forest Service is not the Solution

Posted by Matthew Koehler on February 12, 2010

Note: The following perspective is from Bill Worf.  Mr. Worf was born in 1926 on a homestead in Eastern Montana and grew up on a ranch through the Great Depression. When World War II came along, Worf left high school to join the Marines. He fought in the battle of Iwo Jima.

Worf joined the Forest Service in 1950 and spent 12 years in Utah on the Uinta, Ashley and Fishlake National Forests. Worf then became the Supervisor of the Bridger National Forest in Wyoming. When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, Worf was sent to the Forest Service National Office to head the development of Regulations and Policy for implementation of the Wilderness Act. In 1969, he was assigned to the Regional Office in Missoula as Director for Wilderness, Recreation and Lands, a position he retired from in 1981. He lives in Missoula. Click here for a short video featuring Worf.

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Gutting the Forest Service is not the Solution
By Bill Worf

I am a Montana native who graduated with a degree in Forestry from the University of Montana in 1950, when I started a career in the U.S. Forest Service. When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, I was serving as Supervisor of the Bridger National Forest in Wyoming.

Forest Service Chief Ed Cliff and Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman immediately tapped me to serve in the National Office to oversee implementation of the Wilderness Act. I moved from Wyoming to Washington DC to administer the National Wilderness Preservation System established by the Act. I served in that position until 1969, when I was appointed Deputy Regional Forester for Wilderness, Recreation and Lands in Missoula, Mt.

Although I retired in 1983, I have remained involved in National Forest issues. In this capacity, I have strong feelings about the Jobs and Recreation Bill (S 1470) introduced by Senator John Tester. I share the Senator’s concern about growing fire and insect problems in our National Forests. The Senator’s heart may be in the right place, but his proposed solution would result in severe long-term damage to the Forest Service as an institution.

The Forest Service is one of the most respected agencies in government. It contains the finest collection of natural resource professionals in the world. I spent my professional career as a proud member.

With his logging bill, Tester is saying he knows more about how forests ought to be managed than professionals who work for the Forest Service. Tester is telling us what to do and how to do it, even though what Tester wants may violate federal laws. If Tester gets away with dictating forest management in Montana, every Senator and every Representative in Congress will try to do the same. Instead of being managed by one professional agency that considers all the views of public stakeholders from throughout the country, our National Forests would be managed by local interests primarily geared towards resource extraction.

By effectively dissolving the Forest Service, Tester would create 535 fiefdoms, all with different management mandates dictated by different members of Congress. This would take away Americans’ rights concerning our public lands.

What Tester may not know is that the National Forest System was established in 1897 by Congress. Congress also established the Forest Service to administer these National Forests for the benefit of all Americans of present and future generations. Subsequent laws provided additional guidance, including the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960, the National Forest and Range Land Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, and the National Forest Management Act of 1976. Congress passed these laws to ensure our National Forests are administered in a planned and sustainable way – in perpetuity.

Because Tester is a Hi-Line farmer, I figured he may not know much about Forest Service history. So, I attended an open house on Monday, October 26, 2009, concerning his logging bill. I shared with the senator that heavy corporate and political pressure had caused the violation of the 1960 Act mandating “Sustained Yield”. This unwise overcutting of our National Forests resulted in the closure of mills in Montana and elsewhere.

I followed up my conversation with Tester by sending him a detailed letter on Thursday, November 12, 2009. I included a 20-page comprehensive analysis of Forest Service reports which clearly shows the failure to maintain a “Sustained Yield” throughout the National Forest System.

I strongly disagree with Tester that the answer to overcutting in the past is to overcut in the future. Congressionally mandating logging quotas and legislatively dictating management would convert our National Forest into “Private-Local Forests.” This is directly contrary to 113 years of precedence. When Congress passed the Organic Act in 1897, lawmakers were assured that National Forests would remain open to the public and not restricted to private companies or privileged groups.

The Tester bill effectively says that a handful of local extractive interests have greater knowledge than the professionals of our Forest Service. This dangerous precedent would be viewed with glee by special interest groups of all kinds! For that reason, I must oppose the Tester bill.

Bill Worf served with the Forest Service for 33 years. Worf reports he has not yet received any reply to the detailed analysis he sent Tester on November 12, 2009.

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4 Responses to “FS Retiree on Tester Bill: Gutting the Forest Service is not the Solution”

  1. Jeff said

    Matthew,

    You recently left this comment on a local blog.

    “No bids on Otter Creek, and just a few weeks ago another round of “no bids” on a 3 million board feet DNRC timber sale (which, if cut, would be enough trees to fill 600 logging trucks lined up end-to-end for over 5 miles). Yeah, but Tester’s mandated logging bill will “create and save” all these timber industry jobs, right.

    Anyway, hopefully a majority of Montana Land Board members get their act together, instead of just opting to further reduce bid prices for the coal and logging companies”

    Just curious as to what sale you were refering to? Thanks in advance for the clarification.

    http://www.dnrc.mt.gov/trust/timber/salesresults.asp

    Cheers,

    Jeff

    • Admin said

      Hello Jeff Schmalenberg:

      That’s kinda a non sequitur inquiry to be posting at the bottom of Mr. Wolf’s piece don’t you think?

      But…anyway, one of my enviro colleagues heard DNRC’s Julia Altemus make reference to this no bid sale recently. If my information is incorrect, I’m happy to correct. Cheers, Matthew Koehler

      • Jeff said

        Matthew,

        You are incorrect…if you took a minute to check your facts before using false information (third person information?) as propaganda you might have figured that one out.

        And you wonder why people always question your credibility? Things like this really don’t help…

  2. Admin said

    Jeff Schmalenberg, Easy there buddy. Anyone who knows anything about me or my work over the past fifteen years knows that I strive to send out accurate, fact-based information….and if I’m mistaken about something, I’m happy to make a correction.

    I told you that I got the information from a colleagues who directly heard DNRC’s Julia Altemus make reference to no bid on a 3 mmbf state land timber sale during a recent meeting. I told you already that if I was mistaken, I’d be happy to make a correction.

    However, I’m not actually sure if my statement was incorrect as I’m not even sure if your document is an apples to apples comparison with what sale Julia was talking about. After all, haven’t DNRC timber sales over the past year gone without bids?

    Again, just surprised how big of a deal you’re making about this and why you’re using Mr. Worf’s guest column as a venue for your remarks. – Matthew Koehler

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