Saturday, June 03, 2017

New Ag, Interior secretaries call for retaining public lands, upping resource extraction

By Betsy Z. Russell

BOISE – The nation’s new secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior brought a message to Boise on Friday: Public lands must be retained, but they also must produce more through resource extraction. “Up front, I’m not an advocate for sale or transfer of public lands,” new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said to whoops, cheers and applause from a crowd of more than 300 at Boise State University. Zinke noted that national parks had 330 million visitors last year. “We know that recreation is going to be a bigger piece of the pie in 20 years than it is today,” he said. But he said the Interior Department faces billions in maintenance backlogs on everything from parks to roads, and cost-cutting measures over the years have “stripped the field and the front line.” It’s largely because the department raises far less in revenue now than it did decades ago, he said, from everything from offshore leases to timber sales. “I’m excited, and actually I’m an optimist,” Zinke said. “If we didn’t have good people, I’d be worried, but we have great people at Interior. And if we didn’t have great assets – we have the finest lands in the history of the world, because we have great parks, great forests. We need to manage them a little more aggressively, so our children’s children look back and say we did it right.” “I think it’s time we start looking at forests as crops, as agriculture, and use them,” said newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “…Our people know trees, they know how to grow trees, they know how to harvest trees – we just need to unleash them and recoup the great resource that we have in our U.S. forests for the health of our local economies and for the value to the U.S. taxpayer.” Perdue’s comment drew hesitant applause from a crowd that included federal employees, Idaho state legislators, university faculty members, students and citizens. Not all were in agreement. “That’s old rhetoric,” said John Freemuth, BSU professor of public policy and a specialist in public lands. People have been comparing national forests to tree farms since 1906, Freemuth said, but it’s not an accurate comparison. “Perdue’s an ag guy from Georgia, so he’s talking ag-speak – that’s the way he talks,” the professor said. “It would probably behoove him to talk to Zinke about multiple use.” The U.S. Forest Service – which falls under the Department of Agriculture – is “a multiple-use agency,” Freemuth said...more 

Personally, I found Perdue's comments to be refreshing, and I don't believe he was talking about excluding other uses of the land. He was simply talking about how we should manage one of those uses - timber.  And over the last 40+ years, multiple-use, as determined by the courts and various administrations, has led to drastic cuts in timber harvests from Forest Service land. In 1970, 11.5 mbf (million board feet) were harvested. By 2000 it was all the way down to 2.5 mbf, and has hovered in that area ever since. Praise be to Perdue if he can bring some type of balance back to this equation.

1 comment:

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