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Southeast Federation
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Words of Caution
AFMS Newsletter, Volume 61, Number 4 , MARCH OF 2008

by
John Wright
Past President of SFMS
Current Member of the AFMS Conservation/Legislation Committee
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 the donkey”.

 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: 

 NEWS RELEASE
USDA Forest Service
Washington, D.C.

Release No. 0721
USDA FOREST SERVICE RELEASES FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN

 
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."

The Forest 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 future needs.

The 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.



MORE PUBLIC LAND ACCESS ISSUE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS:


 
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