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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.

USFS Retiree on Tester Bill: Gutting the USFS is not the Solution

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. – mk

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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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8 comments

  1. I agree with Bill Worf, as what he is saying is the truth about the Forest Service. He’s a little out of touch on some newer issues, such as, mass retirements and a severe experience drain. Yes, we must continue to eliminate overcutting but, we must also eliminate litigation on thinning projects. Since I have no experience in the eastern mountains of Montana, I have to believe that some overcutting was done there, as well as along the western border. Restoration forestry deals with both overcutting and necessary thinnings to the betterment of the entire forest.

    Thanks, Matt, for bringing Bill’s educated opinion here for people to see.

  2. Bill Worf is a respected member of the U.S. Forest Service family but there are bigger things that he needs to focus his angst on:
    1 – The destruction of our national forests by the pine bark beetle
    — Cure rather than management of damage
    2 – The complete meltdown of the U.S. Forest Human Resources centralization effort
    — Millions were spent to bring all HR assets from every Region, Station, and Are to Albuquerque, NM in 2006 only to have another Forest Service body decide to decentralize HR staffing and classification functions to the field.
    — Decentralization to Albuquerque, NM has created a continuing fast lane of airline/travel expenditures to and from Washington to the extent, a running joke is “FOREST SERVICE AIRLINES”

    Let’s get real Bill — you should be concerned that the entire Forest Service culture is crumbling, that the service is wasting valuable dollars, and that the FS is no closer to doing things efficiently or combating our forest’s #1 threat than it was five years ago.

    It’s obvious that unless the Forest Service gets a grip, that Congress is going to mandate how the Forest Service does business. Given current performance…probably not a bad thing!

  3. Fotoware,

    You speak with quite the authoritarian streak. You say we need to “eliminate liltigation on thinning projects.” Do you mean by that taking away the right of citizens and citizen groups to challenge federal government decisions, even when those decisions violate environmental laws?

    Most “thinning” projects are challenged when the agency couples thinning with industrial logging, often old growth, and roadbuilding (temporary and permanent), with no guarantee post-logging restoration will ever be accomplished. When thinning – real thinning – is limited to areas within ignition zones around structures lawsuits vs. thinning will end.

    The Pentagon, FBI, CIA and others make a similar argument when advocating taking away civil liberties to justify portions of The Patriot Act and practices of the Dept. of Homeland Security that violate citizens’ rights to privacy.

    Sen. Tester is finding out the hard way that taking away constitutional freedoms is no cakewalk.

  4. Useful or not, ALL Forests at least have internal “diameter limits” to protect old growth and future old growth. Their definition surely differs from your definition. Where I live, the Forest Service already has imposed voluntary diameter limits at 30″ dbh. While I didn’t like that when it was imposed in 1993, we had to work around that limit. Average diameter cut-trees were at 14″ dbh. That was a typical thinning sale, at least as of 2 years ago. New roadbuilding is non-existent here, as well. Currently, it’s is a “poison pill” to include new roadbuilding, even if it were needed for a project. I have worked on many other Forests in many other states and have not seen the old growth logging. Regarding post-logging restoration, there certainly ARE controls to guarantee BMP compliance and rehabilitation. There are contractual provisions that hold money in reserve to complete that work if the contractor doesn’t do the work. It is called “holdback money”. The finished thinning projects here often look like parks, literally! As a former logging inspector, I’ve made bad loggers fix their crap for many years. Some guys sure hate it when they have to read and follow the contract they signed. Many of today’s loggers are very good and know what they are responsible for. The bad ones had to go back too many times to make the money to stay in business.

    When I said we have to eliminate litigation, of course I didn’t mean to remove the right of protest. I just meant that we need to close loopholes and shore up critical legal definitions to reduce the litigation against truly beneficial projects. Of course, even the definitions will be litigated, as well. Picking at the procedural minutiae of complex environmental documents to prevent beneficial thinning projects is what I am talking about eliminating. If it meets the guidelines of a thinning project and presents no harms to the sustained vigor of the forest environment and doesn’t impact water quality, shouldn’t these projects be exempt from litigation? (Pretending that scientists could gather and agree upon said guidelines!) Would you be in favor of some binding arbitration that presents guidelines to a panel of forest experts? I sure would! Dump the lawyers and bring in the scientists!!

  5. The fact that the Forest Service did not do their job well is in no way more apparent then the fact that Sen. Tester was motivated to bring forth this bill.
    One email from a non-involved, poorly informed person in the far reaches of the country counts the same as an unemployed loggers, an unemployed mill worker or a natural resource worker to the forest Service when they take comments about policy changes. Our forests and communities suffer as a result.
    Sen. Testers bill is and should be a direct slap in the Forest Service’s face and should be a wake up call. A call to a change in direction instead of the status quo.

  6. Why can’t judges decree that a scientific board be created, and removes themselves from the scientific arena, concentrating on the actual legal issues? They do not have the scientific knowledge and experience to be making nationwide natural resource decisions. They wouldn’t know a scientific “hard look” if it stared them in the face.

    Why continue to support this tangle of conflicting rules, laws and policies that preserve the gridlock instead of restoring forests? I’ve worked on Quincy Library Group projects, a very similar special group collaboration project in California, and this system has been fraught with problems from the start. After all these years, the gridlock has only worsened to the point that every project goes to court, now. They have succeeded in accomplishing what they sought to eliminate or reduce.

  7. The new boss is looking a lot like the old boss. I thought Tester ran on a platform of getting rid of earmarks and special interest politics.

  8. Tester’s not claiming to know more than forest professionals. He’s simply acknowledging that the job is not getting done… For various reasons… Some say the FS hasn’t done its job. Others say that Congress and the extremes have created over the years such a tangled mess of bureacratic and judicial red tape that they can’t do their job. Still others say that Congress hasn’t funded the FS like it needs to. Maybe a little of each. Point is, give Tester credit for trying to do something other than spout bs rhetoric like others in Congress do, like Rehberg. Give the folks in the wide middle credit for trying something other than lobbing bombs at the other side for decades, like the extremes have done.