Hundreds of forest-dependent school districts and counties across the nation, and especially in the west, are suffering from the impact of Forest Service non-management of its timber resource. This is the story of one such school district and its associated county.
In 1999, the Liberty County, Florida, School District filed a claim for $12.4 million against the U.S. Forest Service (FS) for economic and social damages caused by non-science based management for the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). The FS rejected the claim and, lacking the resources to litigate the matter, the School District was forced to abandon it. (The F.S. later discontinued the management practices in question and replaced them with science-based rules as requested in the claim.) The timber program on Apalachicola National Forest has never rebounded from the effects of this management mistake and, in the just-ended 10 year planning period, harvested only 5% of its total growth and 27% of its allowable cut.
There follows excerpts from the Claim document that specify actual quantified adverse impacts caused by the virtual non-management of the timber resource on the Apalachicola National Forest.
The Liberty County (Florida) School District
on behalf of
The Children of Liberty County
The United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Read again the highlighted paragraphs above. Considering the Forest Service motto “Caring for the Land and Serving People” and the Service’s self-proclaimed interest in communities and families, the reader may well find it disturbing that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Plan for Managing the Resources of the National Forests in Florida so completely avoids any reference to the human impacts of its management. The 36 (out a total of 189) pages devoted to “socio-economics” focuses on economics, and consists in large part of descriptive statistics. There is no attempt to examine the human significance of these statistics. At this writing (January 2012) the 1999 Plan, with revisions, still governs National Forest activities in Florida. No amendment or revision examines social impacts or responds to the issues raised above.
Is this emphasis on “things” and lack of concern for people, so evident in 1999, a current characteristic of F.S. planning and management? What has happened in your county? A representative of your local county/school district may wish to visit the local Forest Service office, examine the current Plan and FEIS for their forest, and search for a discussion of social impacts. Then inventory the local impacts that have actually occurred because of Forest Service non-management (the above Claim document suggests areas in which citizens may have been damaged). Discussion of the findings with the Forest Supervisor and your Congressional representatives could be helpful in correcting unsatisfactory conditions. When all else fails and if the severity of the damage warrants, the county/district may wish to take further action.