Monday, September 17, 2007

Your Tax Dollars At Work

All you never needed to know about US National Forests, or the US Forest Service, OR why I am sometimes called a 'dirty, rotten, stinking, pinko, liberal, commie, radical environmentalist':

You might be interested in how your tax dollars are sometimes spent. I have been involved with timber issues on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska for a long, long time. What I have learned in that time is that the US Forest Service - at least on the Tongass - is largely bought and paid for by the big boys in the timber industry. No matter what, they invariably come down on the side of the 'development' and 'managing the forest' (read 'industrial scale logging').

An aside, and old and dear friend of mine from Petersburg, AK, now deceased, used to say, 'It doesn't take a whole lot to manage stumps'. Truer words were never spoken!

So, the forest service has been subservient to the big boys in the timber industry on the Tongass for at least the past fifty years. They have spent MANY, MANY MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars on the Tongass 'managing' the forests for timber sales. Last fiscal year for example, they spent in excess of FORTY MILLION DOLLARS on the Tongass alone, 'managing' timber sales which produced an income for the treasury of - get this, slightly over $400,000! In other words, the return for taxpayer investment was approximately ONE CENT on the DOLLAR! If that is not subsidizing an industry, I guess I don't know what the definition is.

I'll try to explain how this came to be.

I am acquainted with some of the forest service players on the Tongass. Abigail Kimball, the current USFS head honcho (Chief) in Washington was once the supervisor for the Petersburg, Alaska district when I lived there. Forrest Cole, the current Tongass National Forest supervisor used to be a forester working for her there. I met with them both on numerous occasions during timber sale appeals during the 'nineties. Both are dyed-in-the-wool 'Timber Beasts', which is a term used to describe Forest Service personnel who invariably side with timber industry. Both are educated in forestry. Many professional 'foresters' are educated at the (inter-)nationally renowned University of Michigan School of Forestry, and I believe Forrest Cole at least, is one of those.

Unfortunately for 'National Forests' anywhere in the US, the U of M's forestry school's emphasis is on 'fiber volume' and not overall forest health - except as it relates to fiber volume. In other words, the 'production' of more fiber volume is the guiding mantra for professional forestry. Another way of saying this might be 'tree farming' since more volume is produced in new, second growth. Little if any emphasis is left for preservation of old growth, for environmental factors, fish & wildlife, or anything else - if it doesn't help 'fiber volume production' in the end.

Thus, 'Timber Beasts' are created.

It is now such a culture - at least on the Tongass, which is the one I am most familiar with - that any critics of any stripe, are automatically viewed as 'dirty, rotten, stinking, pinko, liberal, commie, radical environmentalists' - and often described that way by their political enemies - most of whom are bought and paid for by the big boys in the timber industry. You simply 'demonize' your critics, and many in the public will buy that hypocrisy, particularly when it is couched in 'conservative' vs. 'liberal' terms - and nothing could be less 'conservative' than US Forest Service timber policies! The entire Alaska Congressional delegation set great examples in so demonizing such critics. Further, the US Forest Service itself routinely disciplines any employee who dares to step off message.

The following case might interest you - particularly if you are a conservative taxpayer who is concerned how your tax dollars are being spent. This is about one FS employee, a wildlife biologist out of the Sitka office named Glen Ith. Glen did a study, paid for US taxpayer dollars, which was then ignored (left out of) an environmental assessment for a particular timber sale. Now, the Forest Service is trying to fire him for 'improperly' providing the study to critics of the sale. But, the real reason is that he was a 'whistleblower' on another earlier issue where the Forest Service was clearly in violation of the law.


Such is the danger of having a conscience and working in government service, particularly in a hostile administration. Attached below are the official documents in this case if you are interested in checking things for yourself - and seeing how the FS will go to such lengths to punish dissidents. It is particularly ironic to read about this employee having had FS 'ethics training' in his letter of termination! Most American citizens will be outraged by this hypocritical behavior and waste of time and money!

And, maybe that is why I am proud to call myself today "a dirty, rotten, stinking, pinko, liberal, commie, radical environmentalist"!

You could even feel the same way yourself after reading the documents below. If you do, please feel free to pass this along.

Double-click on the images below to expand:

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