Tuesday, March 25, 2008

YES move Forest Service to Interior

An idea whose time has been knocking at the door for 50 years or more, moving the U.S. Forest Service from the Department of Agriculture to Interior, may finally, finally be here.

“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.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the panel’s chairman, believes such a move would help shore up the Forest Service's budget and align agencies with similar missions, said his spokesman, George Behan.

“You have more recreational campground areas in the Forest Service than you do even in the Park Service,” Behan said. “So there's a logical reason for considering it. However, the question has to be asked, ‘Is it the best thing for each agency and for land management?’”

Tiahrt is not being close to telling the truth, of course. Not in this administration. Anybody who has e-mailed petition after petition to members of Congress, the Forest Service or both, on things like Bill Clinton’s roadless rule, Bush’s Healthy Forests initiative, preservation of the Tongass and more, clearly knows that.

But, that does underscore even more why the USFS needs to be moved — to send a message and put it on a tighter rein.
Don Kettl, director of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania said moving the Forest Service to Interior might send a symbolic message that national forests are to be preserved and enjoyed, not harvested and developed, which could be perceived as a threat to the timber industry.

Heck, I would support the Reagan-era idea of merging the Forest Service with the BLM as part of the process. It’s weird to have a view of Colorado’s famed 14ers, or 14,000-foot peaks, on BLM and not Forest Service lands.

Call Dicks’ subcommittee staff director Rob Nabors at 202-225-2771 or Dicks’ office at 202-225-5916 to show your support.