Federal Government Forest Service vs. Environmentalists


Identifying attitudes of the public and wildlife agency personnel is important to implementing management policies, particularly in controversial situations.

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All through the scholastic writing and conventional media there have been several debates about the condition of egalitarianism and the roles of citizens and the federal government in the United States today. These debates range from the attitude that the public does not exist anymore that the community has abandoned public life and public consciousness, leaving the responsibility for governance to the government to those who feel the government stands in the way of citizens and should allow individuals more freedom to make their own governance decisions. From a more conceptual perspective, these debates are frequently couched in terms of communitarian versus free forms of democracy.

These rather abstract political debates about forms of democracy are brought to bear in very concrete terms in the realm of public land management. Land managers such as the Forest Service find themselves in a somewhat unique position when it comes to discussions about democracy and citizenry. Perhaps because forests are concrete things that people can see, experience first-hand, and become attached to, people have been motivated to actively participate in their management. Indeed, where many federal agencies are experiencing public apathy, land management agencies are experiencing just the opposite. Beginning with the creation of the Forest Service more than 100 years ago and continuing today, citizens have actively pursued their right to meaningfully participate in the management of public lands. This right stems from the fact that the American people, not government agencies such as the Forest Service, are owners of the national forests and grasslands (Roger, 2000, p.38).

Within the Forest Service itself, there have been significant changes in working with the public. Historically, the Forest Service viewed itself as the scientific experts in making decisions about forest management. Public participation was treated as an information sharing or educational outreach effort by the agency.

Recently there has been increased interest and support within the agency for implementing more collaborative forms of decision making. This change appears to be tied to a shift in management philosophy from a product-oriented sustained yield approach to a more holistic ecosystem management approach to managing national forests. An ecosystem based approach to managing national forests requires that the decision-making process identify preferred forest conditions out of a complex mixture of possible conditions. It also significantly broadens what are considered relevant social and economic effects of forest management activities. For these reasons, ecosystem management requires a more collaborative style of decision making in order to identify public preferences and socioeconomic impacts (Roger, 2000, p.40).


The difference between forest management and public forest management is more than simple semantics. Public administration differs from private administration in value orientation and mode of operation. Where private administration of forest lands is concerned with efficiency and profitability, public administration of forest lands holds efficiency as only one of many values that fall under the rubric of American democratic ideals. For example, one of the net results of the environmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s was the requirement to balance efficiency and economy goals with responsiveness and representativeness goals. From this perspective, the federal employee is considered a professional citizen who governs with the people, not over the people (Stephen, 1999, p. 126).

Extremely strong cultural/organizational tradition developed under sustained-yield forestry and utilitarian theory paradigms. This tradition has served the agency well as it developed into an international conservation leader and an agency superstar (Clarke and McCool 1996) but on the other hand, the environmentalists believe that this has made the fight for change within the agency more difficulty making it out of touch to many public. In addition, the environmentalists claim that the agency lacks of political accountability, stemming in part from the agency’s cultural traditions. Furthermore Forest Service employees and other external partners have identified Forest Service culture as a significant barrier to implementing collaborative processes. The gap identified by some environmentalists between employee values and their perception of agency values is evidence of the power of organizational culture and the difficulty in changing its orientation (Roger, 2000, p.37).

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Secondly, environmentalist argues that the forest service cannot overcome the cultural and organizational barriers to achieving ecosystem management and serving the American people as they say blind spots cannot be seen by those who possess them. Significant organizational change cannot be accomplished without external support, and the nature of changes cannot be decided without the participation of those the changes are meant to serve. Political accountability can be thrust upon the Forest Service through Congressional micromanagement or political appointees being placed in the agency, but these actions do not serve the Forest Service or the American people well. They claim that It will be much more beneficial if political accountability is embraced through the development of professional-citizen to citizen-owner relationships between the Forest Service and its publics through the pursuit of collaborative relationships. (Tomas, 2004, p.6).

An organizational barrier within the forest service has been a drawback to implementation of collaborative planning and therefore environmentalists have felt that this must be addressed. Numerous organizational and cultural barriers have been identified and therefore they have thought that it is worthwhile to develop funding mechanisms to support collaborative work and integrating collaborative planning procedures into the overall framework of policies and procedures. Additionally, rather than fostering conservative thinking and decision making forest Service should take an active lead in developing broad-based community and political support for decisions. (Tomas, 2004, p. 28).

The Forest Service’s long history of effective conservation leadership indicates Collaborative Forest Management that many aspects of its cultural and organizational characteristics are important to the agency’s continued effectiveness. On the other hand, they feel that the shift to an ecosystem-based management philosophy will differ significantly from its founding organizational paradigm. This is contrary to what the environmentalist think They believe that the purpose and underlying values of actions the agency takes for granted and need to be reexamined including those related to citizen participation. (, Tomas, 2004, p. 30).

The Forest Service has taken its public trust responsibilities and public-involvement mandates seriously and yet the effectiveness of these efforts has not been promising in many cases. This has been contrary to what the have been advocating for and therefore the environmentalist has found it useless for the forest service to advocate for the importance of having trusting relationships and participants being willing to take risks to the success of the collaborative planning efforts yet they are not ready to take the risks. They argue that If participants (including Forest Service employees) come together only to assert what they see as their rights, the process is almost certainly doomed to failure or, at best, to be a reinforcement of the status quo. Successful collaboration requires that the participants transcend their individual interests in search of a group level solution, something that will not occur in the absence of trusting relationships and risk taking among participants. (Eric, 2004, p.5).

Forest Service employees prefer that collaborative planning develop into an advisory function with final decision making authority remaining with the Forest Service. Contrary to this external groups like the environmentalist feel that there need to increase local decision making authority for the Forest Service participants and felt that their own role should be expanded beyond simply information-sharing or advisory functions to one of shared decision making in order to make the collaborative efforts more fruitful. (Tomas, 2004, p.4).

Both the Forest Service employees and their environmentalists have felt that key changes in existing legislation would improve the implementation of collaborative efforts which would involve the public on the management of the forests and improve accountability of the agency. There has been a sharp difference on how to implement these collaborative rules where the forest service employees are focusing a great deal on FACA finding ways to build in more flexibility and finding ways to be able to call advisory meetings without violating FACA standards. On contrary to these view environmentalists feels that the whole array of authorizing legislation need to be simplified and rationalized. In addition Forest Service employees also feel that collaborative planning provisions need to be integrated into policies, procedures, and manual direction related to NEPA, NFMA, and RPA in order to bring collaborative efforts into the mainstream of agency activities and to provide more of an incentive for external groups to participate which is differently from what the environmentalist think it should be done. (Tomas, 2004).

Forest service have the notion that people have tried to hide in environmental movements and therefore they argue that it is more involved in political affairs than in scientific research methods. Due to drastic changes in climate and effects of pollution from some pesticides, scientific research has gone a mile ahead to consider some claims made by environmentalists like effects of pesticides to body hormones like the sex hormones. (Robert, 2000, p. 570).

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Forest service has been considering environmentalists as people who are against industrial growth and scientific research rather they base their arguments on dogmatic theories which most of them are incorrect and are made to affect the society negatively instead of improving their social, cultural, economical and political well being. It has been felt by the forest service that proper measures should be taken either through educating the public to eliminate this idea. (Robert, 2000, p. 59).

Mismanagement of resources by the forest service has been a major draw back to their perforce and through this point of weakness the environmentalists have been using it to increase lower public trust in them. In most of the governments forest reserves they encircled by higher percentage of people who have lost their trust in the way decisions are made in relation to management of forest reserves. Indeed the quality and quantity is currently decreasing at a high rate due to continuous logging and conversion of stake lands into scientific research centers instead of performing its original purpose where it should acts as a recreational facility. It is more advisable if the forest service would sit down and make serious amendments on time taken to make decision and its management. (Eric, 2004, p.4).

The environmentalists have felt that the protocol followed by the forest service in decision making in management of forest has been time consuming in relation to the time taken while deciding and approval period. This is because making of this involves many agencies including government, non-governmental organizations and the entire public. However, after all the time taken in decision making the forest service have been reluctant in implementing the plans and this is why the public has lost trust in them. (Eric, 2004, p.9).

The government has tried to amend polices which allow them to log forest in the forest service lands for their own gain centrally to the wish of the environmentalists like the Sierra Club which has been launching campaigns to nationwide to reduce commercial logging done by the federal government. (Robert, 2000, p. 57).

The environmentalists have seriously disagreed with the forest service over the use of public land especially on the financial management which is highly associated with high risks of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in the way they have been keeping inventory records and overall inability to account billions of dollars worth of assets but centrally to this the forest service have tried to defend themselves by have made good management tools in order to control these mismanagement actions associated to it. In addition to the actions take to improve the management further claims have been raised by the lower management who claim that they have no idea on the amount of the money they have in their budgets at any given time and therefore they cannot trust the accuracy of the data they have. On contrary to this claim the forest service they have introduced the use of the shelf finance software in field offices to keep truck of their operations. (Eric, 2004, p.3).


Identification of public opinions and wildlife personnel is vital to reduce contaversals on the issues of management. Forest service in the united states of America has faced several contradictions from groups of environmentalists who believe that the governments role in management of forest is not involving the public and therefore they should adopt collaborative planning where decisions and legislations regarding forest are made by both parties, poor management especially finances has been the great concern of the public, environmentalists feel that the government is making policies which favor logging of trees instead of creating recreational facilities, the government has been using long procedures in making forest management decisions which atlonglast are not implemented, environmentalists are deeply rooted on politics than science and through formation of collaborative relationships every partner should accept to take risks involved.


Stephen, Whitehead, (1999). Transforming Managers: Gendering Change in the Public Sector, Taylor & Francis.

Tomas, M. Koontz,(2004). Collaborative Environmental Management: What Roles for Government. , Resources for the Future.

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Robert, J. Brulle, (2000). Agency, Democracy, and Nature: The U.S. Environmental Movement from a Critical Theory Perspective, MIT Press.

Eric, C. Poncelet,(2004). Partnering for the Environment: Multi stakeholder Collaboration in a Changing World, Rowman & Littlefield.

Roger, A. Sedjo, (2000). A Vision for the U.S. Forest Service: Goals for Its Next Century, Resources for the Future.

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