Depending on their backgrounds and interests, forest users and concerned citizens want the U.S. Forest Service to manage their National Forests in many diverse ways. This wide range of perspectives might be divided into two broad (and vastly oversimplified) categories: nature-centered (think Earth First!, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, or Center for Biological Diversity) and man-centered (American Forest Products and Paper Association or Pacific Legal Foundation). Application of the these opposing philosophies to management practices result in totally different outcomes. While short-term effects may be readily apparent, long-term impacts are often unpredictable. To make matters more complicated, the “goodness”of each outcome is dependent on the viewpoint of the observer, as the following graphic will demonstrate.
The near-end state of “snag forest habitat” can be seen on the left. This photo was taken on ~June 5, 2012 on the 2nd day of, and near the origin of, the Little Bear fire that burned over 44,000 acres and destroyed 224 homes. Building fire line in this environment was extremely difficult and dangerous. Holding line under the weather conditions that later developed was impossible.
THE END RESULT OF “LETTING NATURE TAKE ITS COURSE”
as advocated by nature-centered environmental activists.
The public land manager must reconcile these competing perspectives while avoiding protests, appeals and litigation that, under today’s civil law, are an effective way to prevent management. If the objective of the appellant/litigant is delay [i.e. block harvest in a fire salvage sale until the timber deteriorates and becomes unmerchantable and snag forest habitat is secured], the contestant is assured success by filing suit and securing an injunction against logging, regardless of the final outcome of the case. Meanwhile scarce time and public dollars are wasted preparing and defending the case, the fire hazard is unabated, and needed work remains undone. The Native Ecosystems Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies are currently (September 2014) litigating to stop the salvage of the dead trees on Helena National Forest in the Deep Creek area shown in the opening photo of this webpage.