“Words of Caution”
AFMS Newsletter, Volume 61, Number 4 , MARCH OF 2008
Past President of SFMS
Current Member of the AFMS Conservation/Legislation
Current Mississippi State Representative
for the American Lands Access Association Inc.
When you head out this spring on
a field trip or any other type of outing that involves federal lands, don’t be
surprised to find roads blocked by gates or earthen structures and many parks,
camp sites, and trails closed. In spite of congressional legislation that
requires proposals and recommendations for road closures based on in-depth
studies and public hearings, the U. S. Forest Service has more-or-less chosen
to ignore the congressional mandate
and is pursuing a course that is indiscriminately restricting
the public from vast areas of federal lands.
Trying to understand the rationale they use in choosing areas to be
closed is impossible and reminds me of a game kids play called “pin the tail on
During the early 1980s the U. S. Forest Service began to
make changes in their philosophy for the
management of forest resources. In all
fairness, I want to acknowledge up front that in large part this was because of
reductions in federal funds; however, in recent years the reduction in funds
has become a scapegoat for placing millions of acres off limits to the
public because of pressure exerted by well-financed
special interest groups. These
restrictions may very well come back and bite them in the backside, but that
will be of little consolation for
us as our tax dollars will be used to
correct the mistakes.
The following USDA News Release is the new philosophy in a
“nut shell” so to speak. It also
contains the website for a more detailed version:
USDA Forest Service
Release No. 0721
USDA FOREST SERVICE RELEASES FIVE YEAR
WASHINGTON, October 29, 2007—U.S.
Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell announced today the release of the
agency’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2007 – 2012. The plan includes
Kimbell’s emphasis areas of climate change, water and involving
youngsters in forest activities.
"Forests play a
unique role in meeting our Nation’s future challenges associated with climate
change, renewable energy, and sustaining abundant flows of fresh
water to the American people," said Kimbell. "Because issues related
to climate change and looming water shortages will take many
years to resolve, the Forest Service is committed to instilling stronger land
ethics in future generations."
Service Strategic Plan for FY 2007 – 2012 provides a clear yet broad
direction to carry out its mission of natural resource management while focusing
on critical programs and activities.
The Forest Service
strategy includes the integration of environmental, social, and
economic issues into its management decisions while accounting for present and
Forest Service Strategic Plan can be found at: http://www.fs.fed.us/publications/strategic/fs-sp-fy07-12.pdf
So what does this mean for you? Ultimately it will mean
fewer places for field trips and other outings as competition is increased for
access to private property as trail bikers, 4-wheelers, hunters,
campers, etc. are displaced from federal lands and seek out new areas for their
pursuits. It will also mean higher
prices for lumber and wood products, fuel, and minerals used to make our lives
more productive and comfortable.
The underhanded covert methods
being used for taking away public access to federal lands without public
approval or hearings will continue unless we take a stand. Become involved and let your opposition be
known. We are not alone in this fight
and can increase our leverage by joining with other groups that are opposed to
the road closures and limiting the public’s access to lands controlled by the Forest Service. Find a way to become aware of, and to keep yourself up to date on these
important issues in your area. I
recommend that you or your club join the American Lands Access Association and also the
BlueRibbon Coalition (sharetrails.org).
These are two of the better ones for keeping informed, but there are
many more and some of them may be
located in your immediate area.
PUBLIC LAND ACCESS ISSUE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS: