Committee Reviews Forest Service Centennial

Jun 22, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte today chaired a hearing to review and recognize the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service in its centennial year. Witnesses testified about developments and improvements made within the Forest Service over the years, as well as the challenges and obstacles still facing it.

Illustrating the increased scope of the Forest Service over the past 100 years and the number of rules which currently govern it, Chairman Goodlatte shared a copy of the Forest Service’s rule book from 1905, a mere 130-page booklet, noting that today’s regulations might fill an entire room.

Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, believed that the objective of forest conservation was to benefit mankind. He also recognized the need for conservation policy makers to take responsibility for the policies they created. Chairman Goodlatte recognized the significant impact of Pinchot’s leadership on the young agency. “As the agency’s first chief, Pinchot stressed that his foresters were to make their choices with an eye towards the greatest good, and to do so with the greatest efficiency. His simple focus set the tone for an institution that quickly became known as a can-do agency,” the Chairman said in his opening statement.

Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Collin Peterson introduced a House Resolution to mark the official centennial of the Forest Service. Specifically, H. Con. Res. 185 does the following:

• Recognizes the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture for 100 years of dedicated service and caring for the Nation’s forests; and
• Acknowledges the promise of the Forest Service to continue to care for our natural legacy; and
• Encourages the Forest Service to deliver multiple use benefits efficiently as the agency enters its second century.

While the Forest Service remains dedicated to its mission, it has incurred a severe backlog of projects and programs. The Forest Service has used the centennial year to evaluate itself at the 100 year mark, holding a series of forums throughout the country to gather comments from the public regarding the future of the Forest Service.

In his testimony, current chief of the Forest Service, Dale Bosworth spoke of the past and looked to the future. “The Forest Service is improving some of our processes to make them more responsive to current conditions by reducing gridlock. We are also transforming our business operations to provide more effective, efficient administrative services for employees and the public at a lower cost, so that we can invest more fully in our primary resource mission and to address future needs,” said Chief Bosworth.

The Committee held a hearing earlier this year to review the National Forest Land Management Planning rule issued by the National Forest Service in December 2004. The rule is intended to streamline and reduce costs in the planning process.

“I appreciate the efforts of the professionals in the Forest Service as they seek to implement a complex web of laws and regulations in an increasingly challenging environment. I believe it is up to us as the Congress to set clearer policies and, following the example of Chief Pinchot, take responsibility for those policies and the future of our forests,” said Chairman Goodlatte in closing. The Committee will continue oversight of the Forest Service as it enters into its next century.

Witness List

Panel I:

Mr. Dale Bosworth, Chief, Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Panel II:

Dr. John A. Helms, President, Society of American Foresters, Bethesda, Maryland

Ms. Leah W. MacSwords, Director, Kentucky Division of Forestry, and Chair, Southern Group of State Foresters, Frankfort, Kentucky, on behalf of the National Association of State Foresters

Dr. V. Alaric Sample, President, Pinchot Institute for Conservation, Washington, D.C.