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President Barack Obama’s pick to oversee the Forest Service was a shocker. He didn’t look to a career Forest Service employee. He didn’t choose a forester or an environmental activist, either. He didn’t even pick a Westerner. His choice of Homer Wilkes, a longtime but little-known Natural Resources Conservation Service official in Mississippi, surprised any who expected an environmental crusader charged with undoing the legacy of his predecessor, Mark Rey, a former timber lobbyist lambasted by environmentalists. “I think it reflects the rather low priority that the Obama White House places on public lands, except in so far as they are accessible for energy production – green energy or otherwise,” says Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

Obama Stuns with Forest Service Nominee

Update, 6-08-09: Wilkes has withdrawn as the appointee for the undersecretary position. White House spokesman Shin Inouye tells the Associated Press here that Wilkes withdrew for personal reasons.

President Barack Obama’s pick to oversee the Forest Service was a shocker. He didn’t look to a career Forest Service employee. He didn’t choose a forester or an environmental activist, either. He didn’t even pick a Westerner.

His choice of Homer Wilkes, a longtime but little-known Natural Resources Conservation Service official in Mississippi, surprised any who expected an environmental crusader charged with undoing the legacy of his predecessor, Mark Rey, a former timber lobbyist lambasted by environmentalists.

“I think it reflects the rather low priority that the Obama White House places on public lands, except in so far as they are accessible for energy production – green energy or otherwise,” says Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. “It also, I think, reflects the view that the administration has that agencies like the Forest Service, their primary function is as job creators and conduits for public money to be passed to private landowners.”

Wilkes, who, if confirmed, will be the first black to hold the office of Agriculture undersecretary for natural resources and the environment, is an unlikely pick to oversee a national forest system fraught with issues, including a massive beetle infestation, costly and devastating wildfires, plus controversies over gas drilling, logging and roadless protections. His forestry credentials are thin.

But as undersecretary, he would also oversee his own NRCS, an agency of 11,000 employees focuses on aiding farmers, which has long lived in the Forest Service’s shadows, even though it’s more in line with the Agriculture Department’s primary focus.

“I think they made a good choice,” says Brian Moore, director of budget and appropriations for Audubon, and a former NRCS staffer in the Clinton administration. “I think it shows conservationists and land managers that they’re serious about conservation issues. This fits right in there: to have someone who’s tied to conservation and not tied to a mining company or oil company or timber company in charge of mining, oil and timber. I think it’s a better representation of what taxpayers really want and much less a reputation of something big business has bought.”

Wilkes, the state conservationist in Mississippi, is a 28-year NRCS veteran. He previously served as budget officer for the service in Amherst, Mass., the assistant financial manager and fiscal specialist in Washington and chief of administrative staff for the NRCS South Technical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

A resident of Madison, Miss., he holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s of business administration and a Ph.D. in urban conservation planning and higher education from Jackson State University.

“For nearly thirty years, Homer has worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service where he has been dedicated to conserving and improving the environment in multiple states,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in announcing the pick. “It would be a privilege to have a public servant like Homer join the USDA leadership team to help carry out President Obama’s vision of protecting our natural assets.”

Critics say that despite the agency’s name, the NRCS has little to do with conservation.

“Certainly that organization was more about conserving farm profits than conserving the environment,” says Becky Gillette, a Sierra Club activist in Arkansas and former co-chair of the Mississippi chapter. “I’m not impressed with the work they did in Mississippi.”

In his career there, Wilkes left little impression.

“He’s gone from one administration to another and sort of been under the radar screen,” says Larry Jarrett, a Mississippi activist who sits on a number of environmental organization boards and has been outspoken on forest issues. Even Mississippians aren’t sure what to expect from him in Washington, he says.

“I wouldn’t look for any major changes in policy regarding the Forest Service or NRCS unless it came from the administration,” Jarrett says. “I think his background is in the office administration end and not in the field.”

Environmentalists had hoped to see the post filled by Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited’s chief operating officer, who was a senior Forest Service policy advisor under President Bill Clinton. Wood, though, is a registered lobbyist, and the Obama administration has imposed limits on appointing lobbyists.

Serving under Wilkes would be Jay Jensen, who has already taken the position of deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment. Jensen has the traditional credentials Wilkes lacks. Since May 2005, he served as executive director of the Council of Western State Foresters/Western Forestry Leadership Coalition, based in Lakewood, Colo. He served earlier as the government affairs director for the collation, a federal-state government partnership.

He also served as senior forestry advisor for the Western Governors Association, where he led the biomass program, as lead forestry advisor to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and as lead policy analyst for the National Association of State Foresters.

Vilsack praised his “combination of on-the-ground and government experience.”

“I’ll be looking to Jay’s leadership as we address the health of our forests,” he said. “This is a top priority for USDA because it relates to several critical challenges—the intensity of forest fires, climate change, biomass and renewable energy, clean water and revitalizing forest-dependent communities.”

Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, says he’s optimistic about the two. In Mississippi, Wilkes is seen as a “good consensus builder,” Partin says, and forest issues there are not so different from those in the West. Jensen brings more solid forestry experience and heavy involvement in the West.

“I think it’s a workable team,” he says. “I think they’re individuals with a good strong background.”

The two inherit the controversies that swirled around Rey, blasted by environmentalists for what they saw as policies that favored the timber and energy industries. He was a target for lawsuits and was even threatened with jail time by a federal judge who complained he was too slow in complying with a court order demanding an environmental study.

Many of Obama’s top picks have had solid green credentials, including a slate of higher-ups in Interior, Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Wilkes’ environmental record is less clear.

Stahl says he doesn’t expect to see much change from Rey’s days. “Mark Rey didn’t have to lead the Forest Service,” he says. “He could simply be led by it. I think the same thing will happen now.”

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  1. Wilkes is not yet aboard and working. Jensen, his subordinate for the USFS, was not up to representing the Obama Admin in telling the House Eneregy Committee, the right honorable Comrade Waxman, Chair, that defining USFS wood fiber as non sustainable for the energy bill in its use as a biofuel for power generation, is about as political as NGO ass kissing gets. Not one stick of wood fiber, thinnings, fire prevention clearing, can go into a Federally subsidized biomass generation facilities from Federal land. Use fuel from Federal lands, and your subsidy is withdrawn. Comrades, that is socialist clap trap of the first degree. So when Los Angeles is burning, the Angeles and Cleveland NF not having had a stick cleared from them, please do the right thing and call it the Pelosi fire or the Waxman fire. Or the Sierra Club fire or the Wilderness Society fire. When you write law to cut your nose off to spite your face, you are a loser, and Waxman is a loser. The Walden amendment to include USFS wood in biofuels did not get a hearing. AlGore, seer, soothesayer, and special envoy from Gaia, said as much when his fat ass sat before Waxman’s committee, when questioned by Rep. Walden about why he would favor NOT having any Federal biomass used to make energy, and Gore replied that loggers are not to be trusted, especially on public lands. That is the state of mind of the Democrap Party leadership at this time. They give out Nobel Prizes to people who think as shallow as Gore. We have just swapped right wing arrogance and partisanship for left wing arrogance and partisanship. There is no hope and there has been no change. Only the suits sitting in the leadership chairs have changed. And that has yet to be observed as an improvement. Meanwhile, the necessary business of political payback continues. Hmmm. Let’s see. We got the unions ownership of the car companies, and they can now make the cars Obama dictates they make. To whom they will sell them is another matter. Have you ever noticed US Govt vehicles seem to be mostly SUVs, and cop cars are big engined muscle cars? Why do you only see one Federal employee driving a big old honking Tahoe or Suburban, and Obama in an embassy blue Lincoln, his having to give up his private Chrysler 300. Well, that is what we got with Wilkes. Just another career bureaucrat from the East to run things in the West. He will get a driver and big honking Lincoln to ride around in. He will count beans, and the USFS budget will get less attention and a lot less money. Oil up the whine machines, because they will be put to use soon.

    Public lands in the West were important when the campaign was on. Why, Boise even got a kiss after their date. But Obama is not going back to Boise or Elko or any other whistle stop Western town. He got what he needed. You will get what you get: a nod of the head on his way out the door to somewhere really important. Wilkes is your nod of the head. He fills the slot nicely. He is the face of diversity and the big Democrap tent. He will be in charge of the NRCS, where he has toiled well for 32 years, and some days, the USFS, too. Jensen will be the USFS policy guy for Obama, and that policy will be not to stir the pot. The Artful Dodger Doctrine. The Obama version of the Clinton Northwest Forest Plan: all words and no product. The Clinton NW Forest Plan, which Al Gore told us at the Energy committee hearing was a great success (promised a little more than a billion board feet a year, and never produced 500 million in the best year), and was good policy, if not logging was the goal. It was not presented as that. But when was deception NOT part of the Democrap deal? Especially the Bill Clinton version of Democrap policy.

    Wilkes promises to be bland, and that is a welcome respite from Weyerhaeuser and the MegaPulps guy, Mark Rey. His job was to propose stupid and politically impossible changes as a straw man for keeping small mill owners from getting timber, as one would expect from a MegaPulp Puppet. And a sock puppet at that!!! He got the job done. He was a lightening rod for hatred by the left, and that was his job. He was to distract the small business mill owners while he made damned sure nobody would attempt to enforce even the Clinton Forest Plan, all to the benefit of the MegaPulps and Big Timber, who did really, really well during the Bushtit administration…really well. And now they have Baucus giving them tax breaks as further reward.

    Wilkes is a competent black man who has spent 32 years doing good at NRCS, and will not raise a ripple at the USFS. Bland. Not a firebrand. His job is to keep the oil on the water. No waves. No conflict. And he is perfect for that, which is the goal of all who work for the USFS, having no conflict in the work place. Everyone must spend all their time making sure they don’t piss anyone off at work. One happy family. If someone occasionally gets out the door for some peace and quiet, those are the single occupants of the SUV or Pickup you see on forest roads. They are off counting amphibians on some plot or picking up the fees for using a campground. After the land in their charge burns, they will be putting up the signs saying until further notice, this land is closed to the public due to safety concerns. Wilkes will be sure that they have plenty of signs. That is what his career has been about.

  2. Let’s hope that if Mr. Wilkes ever gives the president a tour in the woods somewhere, well, that they don’t get lost. This is the sort of pick that you would expect from an urban community organizer. Has Mr. Wilkes ever, in fact, visited a Western national forest? Oh well, he’s got Jensen to help him decipher the topo maps. It’ll be an interesting fire season.

  3. “A Shocker”???? What’s so shocking about an Easterner without any forestry experience being chosen to oversee the Forest Service? And what difference will it make, when the Forest Service is essentially just another corrupt, overblown, inept, top-heavy federal bureaucracy? Seems like a logical choice.

    It will accomplish as much as anything else Obama does…and none of that is any good.

  4. Desertographer

    It appears Obama’s pick has neither stunned nor shocked many people, other than the three curmudgeons above. Googling “Homer Wilkes” nets few hits. Could it be that the national forests and the Forest Service aren’t much of an issue right now, given all the other problems the nation faces? The founder of Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, an easterner if ever there was one, was a pretty good chief by most accounts. Wilkes is actually a southerner, not an easterner, but who would expect a westerner to know the difference?

  5. The controversy about Mr. Wilkes comes from those focused on public lands (National Forest). 70% of the land in the US is privately owned and over half of the landscape is grazing, cropland, agroforestry, pasture. NRCS provides techncial and financial assistance to the owners of private lands. Including oversight of several billlion dollars a year of Farm Bill conservation programs that include the largest wetland restoration and easement program as well as other easement programs protecting prairie, forests, grasslands etc and over a hundred million at least on wildlife habitat. In addition, several billion are spent on soil and water conservation. So, if a person was selected whose focus was only on forest service lands (a small percentage of the US land base) it could be argued they were not experienced in overseeing all the private land conservation programs. Historically the position has been filled often with a forest land perspective so many could argue a change was due to give balance to the larger conservation picture.

  6. Wilkes HAS the oversight of NRCS in his cabinet position. Plus the USFS. He is comfortable with the NRCS, and he has worked for them for 32 years in management positions north and east of Mississippi. None west.

    The man is most likely a competent bureaucrat. Policy is not going to come from him. Policy is going to come from the Science advisors ObamaNation has on board now. His job will be to administer the policies that come from the science advisors.

    Mark Rey had no science advisors. His job was political and his mentors were MegaPulp producers. He came from NCASI. That was a lobby wing of the pulp and paper producers. His job was propose uber conservative based ideas that had no support in the world outside Big Timber and the MegaPulps, and those ideas were straw dogs to be smashed and burned, all the while the Bush Administration welcomed the uproar (selling land to finance the county payment program for one proposal) because it was a working diversion by which they could paint the enviro community as strident zealots and nothing would change. No change was what the MegaPulps and BigTimber wanted. They had NO, ZERO, competition from the 400 or more small mills that once used public timber. They made a lot of money, billions, due to that lack of competition. They knew they would never get to buy the preponderance of public timber because of SBA timber sale set aside programs, from an era of anti trust administrative rule (old guys remember when plywood shipping cost was pro rata around the country, by industry agreement, so as to negate shipping cost advantages, which was killed by Federal courts) that revealed anit-competitive cabals being formed by MegaPulps and BigTimber. And after those decisions, here came the Green Groups, magically funded and ready to sue. There is no difference between the Sierra Club, TWS, TNC, etc., than MegaPulps and BigTimber. Symbiosis of goals. One has money and the other has zealots. No matter. Public timber is locked up, even to being used for bioenergy production by the Waxman bill coming out of the House Energy committee. BigTimber and MegaPulps, however, now get tax credits for burning pulp liquor as they have done for 50 years.

    Wilkes is going to administer the agency according to good GSA business practices, and he make sure ObamaNation policy is implemented. The crazies will make sure the policy is left wing, global surrender, American give away, kumbaiya as hell, and that is just fine with me. The more of these things that happen, the better the chance for a loyal opposition to make headway in the next election cycle.

    Now someone please play “Jim Dandy to the Rescue.”

  7. Too bad I was hoping for some member of the Blue Ribbon COALITION or IMBA to be appointed undersecretary for Wheeled Wilderness Access Protection

  8. Colonel Bain Historian- MONK - Author

    I think this was a wise choice, a firm but steady ship leader that knows the System..
    Ye haw says de Colonel

  9. Checking the org chart, I see that this undersecretary position’s scope comprises just the Forest Service and the NRCS. The undersecretary boxes have other splits and mergers that seem a little odd; they’re a collection of a lot of bureaucracies.

    I don’t imagine there are many possible choices of people who are strong on both halves… or that previous picks represented that sort of diversity, either. The ones that reached my awareness were Republican foxes hired to guard the henhouse. Promoting from within has at least as much to be said for it as introducing an outsider to shake things up, as a general principle.

    Westerners seem themselves on a grand scale, in keeping with their place in the landscape. This accounts for such problems as supposing that “east” and “south” as pretty much the same place, “all that stuff back there,” or not recognizing that their acreage x productivity is not quite as grand as their acreage.

    Since I had no idea, I looked up production numbers, at
    It seems that the south has had comparable lumber production to the west for much of Wilkes’ government career, and its pulpwood production vastly surpasses that of the west. From a production basis, it makes more sense to pick a southerner for head of the Forest Service than it does a westerner.

    From a needs basis, the opposite may be true. We westerners are needy, always burning up with thirst. We rugged individuals get more than our fair share back from the feds, even as we so hate having the blasted city folks tell us how to manage “our” territory.

  10. Vilsack the Ag Sec has just announced the roadless area issues now all have to come across his desk, by passing Wilkes. That has to be a confidence builder.

    The issue about Southern wood production is that the South never was owned by the Feds and then doled out by homestead law. And then a few hundred million acres reserved for the Feds. The
    South is part of the MegaPulp and TimberBarons issue, and they have been part and parcel of stopping Western public land logging to keep their advantage in the market with pine softwood construction lumber due to transportation costs. There has been a USFS presence built and bought east of the Mississippi River, and if you take a gander at USFS logging and revenue, you will see that there is a vigorous, extensive, intensive forestry program in the souther USFS forests, and they log and manage, and road and do all the other stuff that nobody will allow to happen in the West. So, there is now, two Forest Services. The working one in the East and the sitting on their hands one in the West, regulated and run by NGO lawyers and Federal Courts, all being cheered and abetted by the timberland owners and mill owners in Canada and the South. Hell, it would not surprise me if European money lobbies to stop logging in the West, because there is now a substantial presence of Scandinavian forest products hitting the East coast.

    The South is against Western logging. The liberals are too. end of story.

  11. It seems to me that there were forestry leaders in the past that pissed off a lot of people, yet we are far better off because of their leadership. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you need to brush up on your forestry history. Here’s a hint; his last name was Pinchot!

  12. Tom: Appointee Homer Wilkes hasn’t pissed anyone off that I have read. He is a capable bureaucrat, 32 years with the NRCS, an agency that his appointment will govern as well as the USFS. The USFS is second banana in this appointment. Wilkes is black, is from Mississippi, and certainly is just the kind of appointment liberals overwhelmingly voted for ObamaNation to make. That he has zero USFS experience, is not a forester (and foresters have been overlooked in that position for a long time), has an MBA and a PhD in urban conservation planning and higher education from Jackson State, is probably a one time deal, and that he is not a lawyer is a huge plus. He is just what is expected by liberal voters. So I have to say that if there is any candor on the left, he cannot be a disappointment to the Green Lobby, because they birth, suckle, and depend on this kind of liberal action by their President. The White Males of the Environment need not apply. The NGOs of the Environment, who gain their funds by Federal payroll check offs (taxpayers do the banking and accounting for the NGOs money raising) are not going to get all the natural resource appointments a la Clinton. Except, of course, Paulson from Treasury who was also a CEO at The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest non-government owner of record of land. My advice to the Green Lobby is to hire and elevate minorities, people of color and females. Then you can get back into the musical chairs game between NGOs and natural resource agency appointments that Democrats believe in and nurture.

    Pinchot was Chief Forester of the USFS. The first one. Wrote the Use Book, the bible for USFS employees for years. The present Chief is Gail Kimball who replaced Dale Bosworth in 2007. Her claim to fame is being the agency spokesperson and defender of the strategy conjured by the USFS Auditor General staff of burning forests to save them. Bean counters in the wildland fire policy business. Somewhere in her background has to be an appreciation for Robert McNamara and his VietNam strategy. Both are based on destroying something so someone can’t use it, under the guise of leadership and deep thinking. But Wilkes won’t be involved in those kinds of issues as he will concentrate his effort on something he is familiar with, the NRCS. Another appointee, his subordinate, Mr. Jensen will be involved in those issues.

    If you live near flammable Federal lands, be sure to do your due diligence as to defendable space and litter pickup. There will be fire this summer, and many will go unfought because that is liberal public policy, and when those WFU and AMR fires leave their permitted containment areas, they are then conflagrations and will only be stopped on private lands, or roaded public lands, as there are few mineral earth lines to back burn against in roadless areas. The Feds will burn your land to backfire in an attempt to stop a fire they let burn on purpose. Until there is a lawsuit to stop that insanity, it will go on and on and on. Evidently, NEPA does not apply to letting fires burn, and letting fires burn is evidently not a significant management decision covered by NEPA. Go figure.

    Or, in the best of worlds, Wilkes having no experience but common sense in abundance, will stop the WFU and AMR actions (or inactions as they really are) by decree until they can be vetted by the NEPA process. ObamaNation has a lot on its plate, and having a bad fire result in some place like California will pile more on it. Wilke’s job is to not have that happen.

  13. Damn liberals. If it weren’t for them, we’d still have Smokey the Bear in charge, and fire wouldn’t be an issue. The other nice thing about True Conservatives is that their feces are sweet-smelling.

  14. Tom: It is your side that is whining about the appointment. I only have said you got what you voted for. How in the hell can you blame that on conservatives? We obviously didn’t vote for the man who appointed him.

    I was a timber guy. I hated Mark Rey. Despised him. So that put me in bed with liberals on that appointment. Why did you hate him? Every proposal he ever made was a straw man deal to make sure Big Timber, and MegaPulps, an important source of dough for the NGOs of the Environment, got to make and sell lumber without competition from Western gypo sawmills using public land logs. He got the job done, and the Bigs reduced their land to cutover status across the board as fast as they could, and now are trying to convert it to development as they can’t wait 40 years for timber to grow back and still return dividends to stockholders. REITS are about selling land. But they have a friend in Montana, in Baucus, who managed to lard a billion dollars worth of pork, now and in the future, on TNC and TPL to handle the disposition of 325,000 acres of Plum Cr lands in western Montana. All with Federal money, and PCT will get about three times market value for the land. And there was that little gift of $178,000,000 in a one time tax break for Weyerhaeuser in the Farm Bill from Baucus. I see a game plan for the West. Have the ObamaNation buy out the MegaPulps and BigTimber, using taxpayer money….or trading for their land using public timberlands now stocked with timber and managed for timber. Gee. That is what Tim Blixeth has proposed, on the table, working right now, on the Clearwater NF. His checkerboard sections on the Upper Lochsa for managed timberlands on the Palouse Ranger District. And you know what? Blixeth probably gave enough of Credit Suisse and YC stockholders and member’s money to the Obama Campaign to get the job done. If his money to the ObamaNation is only a promise right now, I would sport agent it: Show me the money!!! Blixeth promised money for charity and politics is not worth a lot.

    No matter, if the NGOs want a land trade to happen it will, and if the taxpayers get hosed, they had it coming. But to whine about Obama’s appointment to be the Dept of Ag undersecretary of Ag for natural resouces and environment, overseer of NRCS and the USFS, as not being one of their choosing, get a life!!! You supported Obama. He was salvation after 8 years of Bush. Live with the result. It has to be better than Mark Rey. Quit whining.

    And the shit reference seems to be the medium in which your side seems to wallow, making you an expert I guess. As for Smokey, he wasn’t created by a bean counter like WFU. If your agency has a poor record of overspending and robbing conservation accounts to gloss over gross administrative error and living large in D.C., I guess the Congress sees fit to fund the USFS for what they have become, not what they were. So the Auditor General of the USFS, who at one time was above the Chief, said it was cheaper for the USFS to let forests burn because fighting fire costs a lot of money today, and the USFS put NO, ZERO value, on fire destroyed resources. No dollar estimate. All the while the Dept of Transportation agent, the US Coast Guard, can tell you to the penny the value of property they saved on SAR missions. So the urbane now believe that green house gases from a Hummer are worse than from a forest fire. Dude. They are no different in terms of climate alteration. All the Hummers in existence don’t put out in a year what a big fire puts out in a minute. Hummers employed people and provided transportation. Fires just burn resources and ruin watersheds and result in more fires and more resource destruction.

    I have no idea why heritage old growth forests must be saved from loggers, but it is just fine that they burn. I am not so stupid as to believe that. You might be, Tom. Provident fire in forests was always anthropogenic for millennia, and lightning fire was too imperfect to have created old growth forests. Now that man cannot burn in forests for myriad political and administrative reasons, across many governments and agencies, we grow fuel every year, and fuel is what makes fires. We are adamant about not removing fuel, as a Nation, in our Congress, by the all wise and wonderful NGOs of the trust fund and public employee payroll check off, and that means every year our forests have more to burn, burn with greater intensity, and we lose forests that will never be forests again. Never. They were created and maintained by conditions that are no longer possible by climate change and man made barriers. Climate change was not great enough to kill them alone. It had to have help from man. Your nearest and best environmentalists are wanting, demanding, hoping, that all our forests burn to keep them from ever being logged or developed or accessed by others than people like them, pure of heart and all knowing of the ways of Gaia and Ma Nature. You don’t like Smokey, so disparage him all you want. I don’t like people who don’t have a clue demanding that fire destroy the forests to save them. So make your run at the rolling donut of ObamaNation. Burn a Forest. But don’t in any way be upset if Wilkes doesn’t think you do. He is a minority, and has the special vision of things that only a minority can have. He might think burning the public lands is not a good management strategy and stop it. How will you respond to that? Call on Senator Byrd to put him in his place?

  15. bearbait: I try to keep an open mind, and I appreciate the information you post. I’m not so big on the simplified caricatures that creep in, us vs. them, whining, hate, blah blah blah. I find the racist content despicable; your mileage apparently varies.

    As a general rule, I don’t “hate.” You say stuff like “environmentalists are wanting, demanding, hoping, that all our forests burn” and it slams your credibility and a lot of what’s useful that you have to say.

    In the future, I’ll try to refrain from pithy comments attempting to point out the extreme language of others, since the sarcasm seems to get lost more often than not and since it only seems to inflame the wild rhetoric.

    As for Homer Wilkes, I still don’t know enough to have an informed opinion about whether he was a good choice or not, but in the absence of information, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. (That alone makes me kind of an “extremist” here on NewWest.) I’m not willing to judge his suitability on the basis of his skin color, where he lives, how much news he’s made, or the fact that he’s been part of the NRCS rather than the FS.

  16. Tom: I am not making any judgement of Wilkes. As you said about Pinchot, he was reviled (by the Weyerhaeusers of the world) but put in place a strategy to not lose our forests to fire faster than they might grow back. It was his idea that they were “Forest Reserves.” Not reserves in the sense of a gene pool, but as a natural resource to preserve water quality and a perpetual timber supply. Instead of keeping people out of forests, his idea was that they be a part of them, all the while acting under the supervision of the USFS. We have changed 180 degrees from that. In fact, the Weyerhaeuser contingent won. They obtained a market free from competition. I read a discussion of the wealth of Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, and it says he has a piece or all of 40% of Mexico’s GDP. That is the equivalent of the holdings of the 10 wealthiest robber barons of the last century, which would include Frederick Weyerhaeuser, along with Rockefeller, Morgan, Gould, et al.

    Half of Oregon forest land in private hands is owned by “small timberland” owners. They own no mill. They have no present market for their logs. Even cutting timber enough to pay property taxes is not viable in this Great Depression of building. The train tracks down the street from here have at least one whole train each week of empty longitudinal bulkhead lumber cars headed for empty track storage. Most likely on the tracks abandoned after the flood took out the Salmonberry stretch from the Valley to Tillamook. Canada fills the market with cheap wood from Crown lands, the Canadian government lands.

    Wilkes and Jensen have their work cut out for them. The people who cared most for healthy Federal forests are the people who live nearest them, whose counties are predominantly public lands. They have been so completely disenfranchised by LL Beaners from the NGOs, for so long, that the level of local support has eroded to zilch. Faith in the US Govt has eroded to zilch. Ranger Stations are fortresses with a public room and no access behind the doors anymore. Bunker mentality government. If no local support becomes adversarial opposition to every and all forest decisions, that land is fast going to be a festering wound needing daily attention at a time when the USFS, et al, need local support the most. A Nation can’t burn out the private land owners, call them names, blame them for the damage the uncontrolled by purpose fires from Federal lands cause on private land, and expect to not end up being a police force guarding a public asset. And they are not any good at that, either. Witness the myriad dope grows found after harvest by elk bow hunters each fall. The USFS, the self acclaimed forest guardians, are too busy at the Ranger Station or the SO holding hands at some diversity seminar or attending a worker’s rights conference to be bothered with patrolling the land. “It is so big, and we can’t be everywhere at once.” How about somewhere most of the time? You can’t get that done, either, USFS!

    I would hope that USDA will find themselves with a fresh view from their new leadership. I have my doubts now that Vilsack took the roadless issue to his desk, short circuiting his new appointed minders of the Public Domain. That appears to be appeasement politics at the least. Pay back for the campaign donors. Already the USFS issues are all political, and nothing about husbandry of the land. Business as usual. Next we will see some far reaching program to buy private lands with TNC as the lead quasi-public agency taking on the project “because the USFS does not have the manpower and money”, but the Land/Water Conservation Fund will be drained, and a third of that will go to TNC as commissions and fees for acting on behalf of the USFS and the American Public. Sleaze. Back door financing of the NGOs. Abdication of responsibility. Political paybacks. Republican Mark Rey isn’t the point man. And no Bush to hate. The message hasn’t changed, just the messengers. Forest land is better burned by the Feds than owned and used by the private sector. But what would I expect from the Nation’s leading automobile producer, ObamaNation? And soon to be leading banker if they have to take over Citi Group. Hugo Chavez will be in town to counsel our government on how to run nationalized industry. Not well. Just how to run it.

    The left, the liberals, got what they wanted, what they voted for. If there is not universal happiness, it is only because there were only 8.5 million or so people who thought more of Obama than of the other candidate. 8.5 out of 303 million. Landslide it can be called, but you do know that 8.5 million is not very many votes to regain in the midterms. But Wilkes and Jensen will still be there, and I hope they do a good job for the country. If they fail, it will be because of failures above their pay grade.

  17. I made no comment about Pinchot, that was another “Tom.”

    As usual, bearbait, you cover a lot of interesting ground, and it’s hard to keep up.

    Regarding fire: the problem is the hegemony of green plants excreting O2 into our atmosphere, of course. It’s a very destructive gas, and if the percentage were even slightly higher, we’d be in big trouble. Our best hope is that woo-woo crowd is right about the Earth being a super-organism managing its homeostasis to promote goodness and light, or else that the GW-is-a-hoax!!! crowd is right, and we’re just having a light fever from a bad solar cycle or something.

    If we tip over the limit and as you said earlier, find ourselves with land that will never be forests again, I’m sure you won’t be the only anti-environmentalist screaming told you so, but we can argue about who’s to blame to our dying day.

    Never assume malice when incompetence can explain what’s happening.

    And consider that for as smart as you and I are, if we were put in charge, it’s quite likely we couldn’t solve the problems humans have created through overpopulation either. Along with too many people, there are the crazy ones in the mix who think the Dow’s headed for 36,000 and if only we had more people, we’d have more better solutions to our problems, and ain’t it nice that it’s no as chilly as it used to be?

    If you want to watch for signs of the Apocalypse check to see if the real estate boomers are crossing our northern border to join the Dominion.

  18. Tom vonA…I long ago proposed research into a retroactive vasectomy which is the most promising of population controls. It not only prevents the future, but takes a serious whack at the past.

  19. I think a few people misconstrued what I meant by my reference to Pinchot. I fully support the appointment of Wilkes and would never be critical unless policies negatively affected forestry nationwide. The larger point I wanted to make is that Pinchot was not loved by many while in office. I wanted to make this point because of unfounded critical comments made by some regarding this appointment. The man is not in office yet and some are claiming that the sky is falling down. Many said the same thing when Pinchot was Chief, yet the sky did not fall down. Jay Jensen is a friend and is an excellent appointment who will work diligently to advance forestry goals in all regions of the country.

  20. Tom Dupree: Well said. I have heard nothing from the timber side. All the wailing was from the Greenies. I would hope these were very professional appointments, and have no reason to doubt that they were…. for now.

  21. So bearbait, tell us what “wailing” you’re talking about. I just re-read everything on this page, and there is nothing of the sort. We have hearsay that “environmentalists had hoped” for someone else, and a couple of not sure/not impressed comments.

    Searching the news w/Google for “Homer Wilkes” turns up almost nothing. (One Wyoming story that said Wyoming conservationists figure anyone will be better than Rey – damning with faint praise, but no wailing.)

    Seems like a lot of argument over what you imagine other people are thinking.