Rep. Zinke Addresses Joint Session; Speaks Of Multiple Use On Federal Lands

By Darryl L. Flowers | Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 5:15 pm

Montana’s U.S. Representative, Ryan Zinke addressed a joint session of the Montana Legislature last week.

In his opening, watched via a video link, the congressman spoke about the bureaucracy in Washington, DC, telling the story of his attempt at hanging a picture in his office. Zinke said, “there was a number to call for that,” and when he called the number, “three people show up. We are drowning in bureaucracy.”

Rep. Zinke spoke about public lands, saying, “Our public lands are sacred. Public access and public lands and Multiple Use are part of our heritage. But, so is the mismanagement, and that’s when we have to take a stand.”

“Multiple Use” refers to the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, in regards to National Forests.

The congressman said that part of the problem with public lands is that the authority of local Forest Service staff has been  “stripped away”

For more about Rep. Zinke’s address, and other news from the Montana Legislature, see


Mining & Forests… Case No. 1: Then and Now

By Jim Peterson | Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 1:00 pm

In the summer of 1874 – not quite 11 years after he won the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Battle of Gettysburg and less than two years before he was killed in the Battle of Little Big Horn – Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer led an expeditionary force of 1,200 on a 1,200 mile trek through the Black Hills.

Apart from confirmation of the presence of gold in the Black Hills, the expedition’s most enduring historical contribution was an extensive set of photographs taken by pioneer photographer William H. Illingworth. Seventy-three of his glass negatives survive today, and provide contemporary forest observers with a startling record of the difference between Black Hills forests then and now. Most apparent is the fact that there are far more trees in Black Hill’s forests today than there were in 1874. The photographs, taken before logging began, also bear witness to a long history of fire, though none show grassy savannas punctuated by groves of large ponderosa pines, a setting often associated with fire-dependent ecosystems.

Between 1874—when gold was discovered near Custer City—and 1898, the year before Case No. 1 was sold to the Homestake Mining Company, miners and town builders harvested 1.5 billion board feet of timber from the Black Hills. They paid nothing for what they took. In fact, in 1878 a Congress anxious to aid the mining industry—which it viewed as a key player in western economic development—passed the Free Timber Act allowing miners to take from public land whatever timber they needed for their mining operations. The only restrictions: trees less than eight inches in diameter could not be cut and tree tops had to be disposed of to prevent forest fires. While these restrictions suggest the federal government had a passing interest in forest conservation, unregulated logging continued until February 1897 when President Grover Cleveland created the nearly one million acre Black Hills Forest Reserve, outlawing logging and, in effect, mining, which could not continue without timber.

President Cleveland created this reserve—and 12 others—at the urging of the National Forestry Commission, a group appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, which had been asked by the government to prepare a “rational forest policy” for the United States. Several commission members visited the Black Hills and concluded that minus quick action its forests would soon disappear altogether to the detriment of government hopes for settling the West. In fact, as early as 1892, one Department of Agriculture field agent predicted that “it will be no wonder if in a short time the dark pine forest is gone and the name ‘Black Hills’ has become meaningless.”

Predictably, President Cleveland’s action outraged miners and townspeople alike. In its February 27, 1897 issue, the Custer Weekly Chronicle declared, “The executive order…may be safely regarded as one of the most vital blows at civilization, so far as the Black Hills is concerned, that has ever been perpetrated by the ruler of any nation in the history of modern or ancient times.”

Not all of the commission members agreed with Cleveland’s order. Most notably, Gifford Pinchot, one of the era’s leading conservationists and an early advocate for science-based forestry, had misgivings about the philosophical underpinnings of forest preservation. He favored adoption of management principles developed in Europe at least a century earlier: efficiency, rational planning, scientific management and continuous production based on removal of old timber in order to encourage growth in the most desired tree species.

In June 1897, barely four months after Cleveland created the no-harvest reserves Congress bowed to western economic interests, ratifying the Organic Administration Act. Most significantly, the Act declared that the reserves existed “…to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States.” It also gave the Secretary of the Interior the power to make regulations under which mining, lumbering and grazing interests could use public forests.

That fall, Pinchot toured the Black Hills, and in a history making November 3 meeting, convinced Homestake Mining Company officials they should side with him in his quest to bring science-based management to the reserves. Mindful of how quickly its economic fortunes had been changed by Cleveland’s order, company officials agreed to submit a formal request to the Secretary to purchase timber under terms spelled out in the Organic Act. It was a huge victory for the opportunistic Pinchot, who a year later was named Chief of Interior’s Bureau of Forestry.

Three months later, in February 1898, Homestake Mining filed its formal written request to purchase timber from the federal government, but it would be another year and a half before the application was approved, the sale volume estimated and the deal sealed. Nevertheless, Pinchot’s timing had been perfect. Here was a brutalized forest in desperate need of scientific management, and here was a company that needed a long-term timber source in order to maintain its immensely profitable mining operation. It could ill-afford to further anger a conservation-minded citizenry that feared the nation might soon run out of timber.

“There is no other forest in the United States in which practical forestry is more urgently needed, or in which results of such importance may be more easily achieved,” Pinchot wrote in a later report. “Upon its preservation depends the timber to supply a great and rapidly growing mining industry.”

Logging on Case No. 1—the first ever government-regulated timber sale—began just before Christmas 1899. Homestake paid $14,967.32 for about 15 million board feet of live and dead timber. Even then, it was an inconsequential sum for one of America’s largest mining companies, but getting the wood proved to be quite another matter. It took an army of horse loggers about eight years to complete eight separate contracts, one for each section from which timber was harvested. In all, about 2,000 acres scattered across 5,100 acres were logged.

About 5000 board feet of timber was removed from each acre—in trees up to 30 inches in diameter. Initially, the government allowed loggers to remove all trees larger than eight inches in diameter, but required that two larger trees be left on each acre as a seed source. But midway through the first year of harvest, the minimum diameter for trees harvested was increased to 14 inches which—counting seed trees— meant that about 500 board feet of standing timber were left on each acre. Clearly, the government’s forest officers—those charged with enforcing the logging contract—saw themselves as managers of a forest they believed could produce timber in perpetuity. A 1924 Forest Service survey suggests their instincts were correct. It revealed per acre volume had already increased 441 percent, to 2,600 board feet per acre.

In the years since, portions of Case No. 1 have been separately harvested five times: a CCC thinning in the 1930s, a post and pole thinning in the 1960s and actual timber sales in 1977, 1989 and 1990. In a 1968 ceremony, the Forest Service commemorated the two billionth board foot removed from the Black Hills National Forest by harvesting a 203 yearold ponderosa pine from the Case No. 1 site near Nemo. The occasion marked the fourth time the Nemo site had been thinned since Case No. 1 crews left the tree behind in 1899. Reporters who attended the ceremony seemed to grasp its significance—and the role Pinchot had played in insisting that a well-regulated forestry program could serve the nation’s economic interests while conserving its forest reserves.

“With harvest of the two billionth board foot, the Black Hills will have produced as much or more wood than there was estimated to have been standing when logging started here,” the Rapid City Journal noted in its June 23, 1968 edition. “Case No. 1 is more than history. The old sale area has been a proving ground for forest management. Here the basic precepts of careful logging were first laid out.”

Apart from representing a vast improvement over the hell bent free timber era, Case No. 1 became the economic cornerstone for dozens of still prosperous communities in rural South Dakota and Wyoming. Though it would be another 90 years before economic and ecological sustainability were seen as interdependent, Pinchot and his colleagues believed that if they managed the forest—making certain a new forest replaced the one that was harvested—they could also sustain the communities that purchased and milled federal timber.

Today, dozens of major federal laws and thousands of regulations—the Case No. 1 legacy—govern when, where and how logging occurs or if it can occur at all. In fact, many foresters now believe the regulatory process has become so cumbersome that it is counterproductive. Even more worrisome are the numerous proposals now before Congress that, if adopted, would outlaw timber management in National Forests. Before trading a century of success in forestry for a set of environmental unknowns, Congress ought to revisit the principles embodied in Case No. 1:

• The nation’s timber supply is not inexhaustible.

• A well-regulated forestry program can serve the nation’s economic interests while conserving its forest reserves.

• For conservation to succeed it must first be turned into an economic asset.

Based on what we saw in the Black Hills, these principles are as valid today as they were when Pinchot and the Homestake Mining Company came to terms with each other a century ago.

Jim Petersen is a co-founder of the non-profit Evergreen Foundation, and publisher of Evergreen, the Foundation’s periodic journal. Evergreen Foundation was established in Medford, Oregon in 1986 to help advance public understanding and support for science based forestry and forest policy. The organization’s original sponsors were all members of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. This article can be found at

“What’s That Sound?”: Rethinking National Forest Policy In The West

By Jim Peterson Evergreen Foundation | Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015 1:12 pm

“There’s something happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

Young people speaking their minds

Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down”

For What It’s Worth

Buffalo Springfield, 1967

Stephen Stills, lyrics

I was 23 when Buffalo Springfield recorded “For What It’s Worth.” The year was 1967, Vietnam was raging, and the whole damned country was in turmoil. The war shredded the generational fabric of our society in ways that have thus far made its mending impossible.

Although we are the best fed, best housed and most affluent nation in history, we are even more restless, directionless and unhappy than we were then. As Buffalo Springfield guitarist, Stephen Stills wrote 46 years ago, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

It still isn’t clear – at least not to me. But there is unquestionably something “going down.” What began as a student protest against a long forgotten war without purpose has infected every square inch of our society. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is real. Nothing lasts. The glue that held our nation together has dried and cracked, and our society is coming apart at the seams. Each seam has become an open wound and each wound oozes the puss of aggrieved citizens who believe their problems are of someone else’s making. We have become a nation of victims. It is painful to watch.

Our 24/7 news cycle feeds a kind of hopelessness and despair unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It fuels a frantic sense that only the federal government can dress the wounds of our disintegrating lives. Yet, it is the government that inflicted many of our most serious injuries. This is know for sure because I have lived in the West all of my life and have watched the federal government first embrace us when it needed us, and then toss us over a cliff when it no longer did.

It is along the bloody tear of this new wound that a new battle line – not unlike the one Stephen Stills wrote about in 1967 – is being drawn. Congress needs to start paying attention to the angry sounds that are reverberating along this rural western fault line because all hell is about to break loose. The kind of ethnic cleansing that has gone on in the West for the last 20 years cannot long endure in a free society.

Begin with the fact that more than half of all land in the western United States is owned and controlled by the federal government. Many legal scholars argue that federal land ownership is unconstitutional. Whether it is or isn’t doesn’t matter because the same constitution forbids states from levying property taxes on federal lands within their borders.

In Oregon, where I live, 53 percent of all land is federally owned and thus not taxable. This means that the burdens associated with funding schools, local governments and police and fire departments are borne by the 47 percent of our land base that is taxable. To understand this inequity – and its’ crippling impacts – imagine for a moment that the federal government also owns 53 percent of Manhattan Island. What might be the impact on New York City’s public sector services?

The western federal lands story is long, with many twists and turns, but for nearly 200 years members of Congress understood that full development of the roughly two-thirds of the nation’s economic potential required that the government find ways to encourage private capital and initiative to venture west. The railroad land grant acts, the Homestead Act and many early mining and timber acts were all designed to encourage industrialists and settlers alike to head west. Millions did.

As recently as the post-World War II Truman years, Congress and its federal forest management agencies were fully and very publicly engaged in western economic development – a result of the Roosevelt Administration’s conclusion that western federal forests were the missing economic engine the nation needed to fuel its transition from wartime to peacetime footing.

FDR’s great fear was that minus a robust peacetime economy, the country would soon lapse back into depression – a political disaster for Democrats. The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, ratified by Congress in June of 1944 – and commonly known as the GI Bill – promised every returning veteran a free college education and a government-backed home mortgage. By then, deep thinkers in Roosevelt’s cabinet had figured out that the West’s vast federal forests were both a source of employment and wood needed to power the housing boom that followed the war. For the next 40 years, federal forests provided about 15 percent of the nation’s timber supply – and more than half of all the domestic timber used in home construction in the 11 western states.

The post-war federal timber sale program also fueled economic development in hundreds of small rural communities that had never before enjoyed such prosperity. Sawmills, plywood manufacturers, logging companies and their equipment suppliers created thousands of family-wage jobs that, in turn, created atimber-based tax revenue stream unlike anything the federal government had ever seen from western states. The Roosevelt and Truman administrations had solved two of the country’s most vexing post-war problems: jobs for returning veterans and wood to fuel the much anticipated homebuilding boom.The Vietnam-era rise of environmental activism changed everything. The federal government’s wildly successful timber sale program became an easy target for an assortment of left leaning groups hell-bent on reshaping the nation’s values and priorities. For years they made no headway, but as the makeup of Congress changed – a reflection of the country’s shifting social values – new House and Senate members began to chip away at the nation-building work their predecessors had done. Forty years hence, federal imber harvesting has fallen by 90 percent, to its lowest level since the end of the Great Depression. The economic impact in the rural West has left many communities in the same condition they were in when the U.S. entered World War II, effectively ending the Depression.

From my ringside seat, which I have occupied since 1986, I have watched disbelief become heartache; heartache become fear; fear become anger, and anger become a ticking time bomb. Disbelief because those who put down roots in the rural West after World War II still have a hard time believing that their own government would betray them as it has; heartache because countless thousands lost everything through no fault of their own; fear because no amount of pleading or politicking has made a difference; anger because their way of life has been taken away for no reason other than the fact that there aren’t enough votes in the rural West to affect positive change in Washington, D.C.; and a ticking time bomb because playing by the rules has not worked.

I have no idea how much money the federal government has spent “studying” this problem of its own creation, but it runs into the billions of dollars. Billions more have been lost in wages and tax revenues. Still more billions have been lost in the value of federal timber killed by insects, diseases and wildfires that could have been minimized had the post-war sustained yield, multiple use ethic still been honored on federal lands. But it disappeared soon after Vice President Al Gore ordered its last practitioners fired from the Forest Service’s Washington, D.C. office in 1992.

You can be forgiven for not understanding why Congress would allow such a marvelous federal program to be dismantled by environmental activists whose main goal is the “re-wilding” of the rural west. To do this, all economic activity must cease, so that “nature” can “heal” all of the “devastation” that “greed” has inflicted on the West since white settlement began following the Civil War.

I prefer not to go down this road because I long ago gave up tilting at windmills. I thus accept an explanation given to me almost 20 years ago by Leonard Netzorg, a brilliant lawyer and friend who worked in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, and represented the western lumber industry in some of its biggest battles against the federal government.“Unfortunately, few urban voters have any hands-on experience with nature. They thus do not realize there is no ‘web of life’ that exists in some mystical steady state.”

When I asked Leonard why he thought the federal timber sale program was going down in flames he said, “Because society’s felt necessities are changing.” It is as good an explanation as any I have heard. Today’s voters – especially urban voters who hold defacto control over the federal forest policy making apparatus – are only concerned about the environment as they see it.

Nor do they seem to realize that there is no “reverse” button in “nature.” Civilization can only go forward from where it is today having already accepted the fact that our global environment and the world’s economies are equal and indivisible parts of a larger whole.

Although there isn’t much bipartisanship in Congress today, there are clear signs that mainstream conservation groups have quietly concluded that “letting nature take its course” in the West’s federal forests is a prescription for environmental disaster. This is a star-crossed moment and a good reason for someone to start a conversation about moving the nation’s forest management policies back toward the center. It is likely to be a time consuming process because there are a lot of rotten apples in this barrel, mainly lawyers who represent the “re-wilding” crowd and are being paid handsomely by taxpayers who are on the hook for their legal fees. The sooner they are tossed in the nearest compost pile, the better.

“I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

Jim Petersen is a co-founder of the non-profit Evergreen Foundation, and publisher of Evergreen, the Foundation’s periodic journal. Evergreen Foundation was established in Medford, Oregon in 1986 to help advance public understanding and support for science based forestry and forest policy. The organization’s original sponsors were all members of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association. This article can be found at