Forest Service Trashes Davenport Fourteener Movie – He’ll Try Again


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 4, 2007      

I’m headed over to Golden, Colorado in a few hours to introduce Chris Davenport at a fundraiser for the Colorado Fourteener’s Initiative. So blogwise, what else is there to talk about than Dav’s movie the Forest Service (USFS) just nixed?

The story began more than a year ago when film maker Ben Galland began filming Chris Davenport and his companions doing ski descents during his “ski the fourteeners in 12 months” project. They got some exciting shots but overlooked getting a Forest Service commercial filming permit. Later they applied and were denied, then applied again and received a firm and presumably final denial this past Monday, April 30.

Myself and many others were (and still are) incredibly excited about this movie. By all accounts I anticipated it as being a ground-breaking creative about North American ski alpinism. More, the aesthetic and spiritual values that legal wilderness provides humanity are well represented in a nicely done and insightful film such as I’m certain this was going to be.

According to newspaper reports and various conversations I’ve had with individuals involved, the Forest Service had three major problems with the film. First, commercial filming on National Forest land does require a permit, the filming started without, and the permit was never granted. Second, much was filmed in legal wilderness and the Forest Service requires such films to “promote wilderness characteristics of solitude.” While by its very nature a film about skiing fourteeners promotes solitude, the bureaucrats ruled that the film falls short of their wilderness criteria (besides his small cadre, Davenport saw all of 4 other people during his trips on the 54 peaks). Third, and perhaps most unfortunately, Galland attempted to get permission for helicopter use in legal wilderness — something that simply is not going to happen for a commercial ski film.

So myself and many others are frustrated and saddened by this. We hold to hope that the film can be re-cut to satisfy the USFS, or perhaps given over to a not-for-profit that the Forest Service favors and used for fund raising. Davenport told me that indeed one option is to turn all the footage over to someone like the Colorado 14ers Initiative to re-edit with a stronger wilderness message and use as a fund raising tool, and that another USFS permit will indeed be applied for.

Meanwhile, many of us who wanted to see the film are angry at the Forest Service. Some of us feel betrayed by our own government (sorry to state old news). And filmmaker Galland’s lack of sensitivity to legalities only compounds the frustration — but perhaps he was caught up in the excitement of doing something truly special and was leaving mundane details for later, not the first artist to do that!

When you think it through, the Forest Service is perhaps not the devil I’d like to make them out as. Other than a few environmental wackos who’ve snuck into the organization they’re just a bunch of underfunded bureaucrats probably watching out for their own jobs more than anything else. Overzealous enforcement is sometimes wrong and perhaps that’s what this is. But more, I think it’s a maneuver in rear-end coverage. For starters, how could the USFS approve a permit for a film that used helicopter filming in legal wilderness? That simply isn’t going to happen, even if the helicopter operated legally by staying above the FAA mandated flight ceiling.

If the USFS did approve a film with helicopter assisted footage of wilderness skiing, you’d hear a wailing cry like a thousand banshees rising from every enviro group from here to Taiwan. On top of that, if they approved one heli, why not more? Anyone who likes core wilderness ski descents, myself and I’m sure Davenport included, would not want that happening.

(By the way, to the Davenport crew’s credit let us be clear they did not “heli ski.” Rather a helicopter was used once as a camera platform to film skiing in legal wilderness, and the pilot ostensibly knew his FAA flight rules and stayed above the mandated 2,000 vertical foot ceiling, and thus acted appropriately.)

Regarding the film promoting wilderness values. I believe it does by default. But it’s a ski mountaineering flick, not some hour long nature porn epic — which is probably what the Forest Service means by something that “promotes wilderness values…”. Thus, to get past this criteria the movie will indeed need to be re-cut and probably taken over by a not-for-profit that the USFS favors.

There is still a fairness issue in this that grates on me and I’m sure many others. While in theory law enforcement isn’t as much about fairness as about enforcing what’s on the books, in reality it frequently is about being fair. When a case goes to a judge, for example, there are plenty of times when feelings of what’s fair might influence their decision on sentencing and other aspects of law within their power. Ditto for the USFS. Administration of the Wilderness Act is open to huge interpretation, and the “commercial film” rules they’re operating under are archaic and ridiculous strictures put in place to prevent old-school Hollywood style film projects from running roughshod over the landscape — not a few friends traveling under their own power and filming a personal adventure, however “commercial.”

So I’ll say it again, as I did in a past blog:about this issue. For the Forest Service to deny a permit for this film, without simply requiring that heli photography not be used, is arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory of ski alpinists. I say this for many reasons. Regarding the big picture, I say this because the USFS really does very little to stop existing forms of destructive wilderness use, both legal and illegal, that are far more problematic than three or four men taking pictures of skiing in a winter landscape devoid of human presence. Snowmobile riders that illegally enjoy wilderness rides all across the west are one example. But overuse and damage of trails by horsepackers is perhaps an even better example, since horse use is legal and sanctioned by the USFS (and in many cases is a fully commercial endevor).

Yes, two wrongs don’t make a right. But there are issues of scale here, of fairness, and even Galland’s right to free speech and the public’s (our) right to see these images of our own public land.

But even the darkest cloud has the potential to produce beautiful powder. Thus, sooner or later I suspect we’ll see a movie about Davenport’s fourteener project. I’m sure it will be enjoyable, even award winning — and perhaps better than the original cut by focusing even more on the personal, spiritual and wilderness aspects of Colorado ski alpinism.



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Comments

23 Responses to “Forest Service Trashes Davenport Fourteener Movie – He’ll Try Again”

  1. Chad May 4th, 2007 7:15 am

    Very dissapointing. It would have been a great film to watch showcasing incredible ski alpinism in our own backyard. Your point on the “throttle twisters” is right on the mark. A group of us had the Taggert & Green Wilson huts last weekend. There were sledders all over Pearl Basin buzzing around us while we were touring, & high marking a lot of the upper bowls. Where was the USFS then???

  2. Bob Lee May 4th, 2007 7:26 am

    This is a tough one. I would really like to see the film as envisioned by Galland and Davenport, and the FS’ stated reasoning for the denial sounds weak, but I’d like to think there would have been many problems if the Davenport crew had applied for the permit ahead of time instead of after the fact.

    At the risk of making a bit of an over-statement, I really wouldn’t want to see other special-use interests like mining, logging, grazing, or even big-budget big-impact film crews go in, use federal lands, and then apply for the required permits after the fact. IMO Davenport’s been caught in a broad-brush bureaucratic take on special-use, and for once it isn’t easier to get forgiven that it would have been to get permission. The take-home message is to get the permits first for a high-profile project like this one.

    I hope they’re able to somehow get the footage in question distributed.

  3. Craig Burbank May 4th, 2007 7:26 am

    What a drag…………Maybe they should change the name of the movie to Chris and Bens Excellent Adventure and omit any mention of 14ers and locations and let the viewers just enjoy the images of OUR public lands. Shame on the USFS

  4. Bob Lee May 4th, 2007 7:28 am

    In the first paragraph I meant to write, … there would NOT have been many problems…

    Sorry, feel free to post edit.

  5. BJ Sbarra May 4th, 2007 8:30 am

    That’s a real shame, Lou. It’s pretty frustrating dealing with stuff like this, hopefully at some point we’ll get to see some of the footage. They should just leak it to YouTube and let mob rule on the internet take over.

  6. matt May 4th, 2007 10:53 am

    Keep the choppers out of the usfs land. This is all about money and self promotion. If a skier does ski all the 14ers in a season and doesn’t brag or have sponsors, did he really ski them at all? Backcountry skiing shouldnt be about big money buying our right to solitude and wilderness. Think about our childrens right to have a place to escape to. This movie would have sold a ton of red bulls and kilowatts.

  7. John Smith May 4th, 2007 10:33 am

    Disclaimer: I am a seasonal employee of the USFS. I am writing on my own time and NOT as a representative in any way of the agency. These opinions are solely my own.

    The nature of my employment with the agency means that I am very much the “low man on the totem pole” and not involved in decisions such as this one, so I can’t speak to the particulars of this case. Frankly, as a skier and avid 14er climber myself, I’m frustrated that I won’t be able to see Davenport’s film, too.

    However, I am also frustrated by the undercurrent of anti-USFS sentiment in many of the postings here. What I have seen in my years with the Forest Service is anually shrinking budgets with annually rising costs and demands on the natural resources. What do you think is going to be the result of that? If the local district cannot afford to hire workers, then who is going to be out there to catch the “throttle twisters” in the act and fine them?

    My current district has around two to three dozen employees to handle public relations, administration, recreation, wilderness, archeology, fire fuels, fire suppression, acounting, maintenance, engineering, GIS, contracting, biology, human resources, timber, law enforcement, and more, for about 450,000 arcres of public lands. Much of this work, particularly fire suppression, fuel reduction, and trail maintenance, is very labor intensive. This, on a district only 20 minutes from a major city and with a huge urban interface.

    My boss does try to patrol the district as much as possible, and has ticketed many people causing resource damage through riding atvs or 4×4’s off trail, among other activities. (Usually their response is something like “F@#$ You! It’s my National Forest, too!”) However, the competing interests of fuel reduction (ie. forest thining, one tree at a time), fire suppression, and assisting the recreation and trails departments, who have no money to hire maintenance crews, takes away a great deal of time from resource protection.

    The pattern of thought that I see in many public settings is “The goeverment doesn’t work, so let’s take away their funding.” Then, with the agancy’s greatly limited budgets, the public says “This isn’t getting done, that’s not getting done right, so the government doesn’t work, let’s take away more funding.” And so it goes.

    The bottom line is, if you want better resource protection, and more even-handedness in decision making, then we’re all going to have to pay more taxes to fund such efforts. It’s our choice, because they are our lands. What do you want more?

    JS

  8. Scott B May 4th, 2007 10:40 am

    Theres only one solutiong: release the film without making it a commercial endevour.

    It wouldn’t be too satisfying monetarily, but would be very satisfying in taking away the FS control over the distibution of the film. A nice big “take that!” Follow up with a for-profit speaking tour and maybe Dav can recoup some of the expense.

  9. Oliver May 4th, 2007 5:16 pm

    Matt,

    Please stop your rambling!
    Have you ever met Chris?
    I do not think so!

    You should have seen one of his presentations he gave around the country (or tonight in Golden) and you would not talk like that. You would understand what drove him to complete this project. Sure it’s nice to get paid some amount as well, but he is not making milions.

  10. John Smith May 4th, 2007 10:19 pm

    This really shouldn’t have my name on it, since I’m quoting 90% it from the previous blog entry. I just found it to be about the most informative posting related to the situation.

    WILL STENZEL wrote this:

    Reality Check:

    16 U.S.C. 460l-6d, part of the law establishing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, clearly provides that filming for commercial purposes requires a permit on all lands administered by The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture – including federally designated wilderness. Still photography does not require a commercial filming permit unless it “uses models or props which are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.� Davenport’s movie was made for commercial purposes and therefore subject to the law.

    A few comments on the situation:

    1. The commercial filming permit isn’t something cooked up by the evil USFS while the rest of us weren’t looking. This rule was expressly provided for by Congress. It is silly to blame the USFS for enforcing the law.

    2. This isn’t some secret rule used to bash Davenport. The first person who picked up the phone when I called the USFS office in Golden knew about the commercial filming permit. Even the briefest inquiry by Davenport or his crew would have revealed this requirement.

    3. There is nothing weird or irrational about requiring a permit for commercial filming as opposed to commercial photography. The purpose of the law is to protect resources and cover administrative costs, both of which are presumably higher for commercial filming rather than photography. This view is reflected by the municipal codes of every major city in the country (and probably Aspen). The law also provides that a permit be required for commercial photography under certain impactive circumstances.

    4. I don’t understand that the law is somehow invalid if intermittently enforced and/or applies to even minimum impact commercial filming. If you get caught speeding, it doesn’t often help to tell the cops, “Well, everyone else is speeding, too,� or “I speed all the time and never got caught before.�

    End quote. BIIIIG thanks, Will.

    Look, I know the Forest Service is not infallible. Heck, try working for them sometime. But before you go ranting about how terrible they are about everything under the sun, try to understand their position, too.

    Your friendly guvmint stooge,
    JS

  11. Don J May 4th, 2007 11:33 pm

    John,

    I’m curious exactly what the budget is for your district? Just saying that it’s not enough isn’t going to cut it. Do you have any numbers? I’m willing to bet that it’s a decent amount of money to manage a bunch of trees, dirt, rocks, and a few roads. Many of the services you listed could be viewed as completely unnecessary.

    Blaming a poor decision like this on under funding is so typical. Yea, it was a stupid decision, but if we just had more money bla bla bla………GIVE ME A BREAK. My professional experience with government agencies (I’m a civil engineer) leaves me in constant amazement of the massive inefficiencies and waste I see every day. I suggest you take a good look at the finances of your organization and compare them to a real, private company. You will probably be amazed at the difference.

    So no, let’s not just throw more money into the vortex of waste and bureaucracy. This Davenport example is just the latest example of the USFS being completely out of touch.

  12. Lou May 5th, 2007 5:55 am

    As far as I know, while the USFS is indeed entrusted to occasionally enforce a set of rules and laws, much is open to interpretation — especially with the wilderness act. The point I make in my blog is myself and many others are somewhat bewildered as to why the USFS could have not worked a bit harder reaching “yes” with this. Davenport is incredibly well known and respected in the community of younger skiers who happen to be skiing the fourteeners aggressively. He could be a spokesman for wilderness values to this group as he is as much a lover of our wild places as anyone else, and as a graduate of multiple NOLS courses as well as a mountaineer he’s intimately familiar with leave no trace ethics. Sure, his filmmaker might have made a mistake in trying to include some footage shot from a heli (though they did NOT heli ski), but those clips are not necessary to the film and according to Dav are already nixed because of their controversial nature (even though the helicopter flew legally).

    So our point is that the USFS obviously has discretion in what laws they enforce, and how aggressively they do so. All we’re asking is that Davenport’s movie would be granted the more liberal and forgiving of such.

    As for my own views of the USFS, as I stated in the above blog, I’m clear they are not all bad, but I’m not their greatest fan. Indeed, I’m not a fan of any government bureaucracy. As far as I’m concerned our tax money is for the most part wasted by just about any government entity you can name, and all are necessary evils because the alternative is worse. This view will continue to inform all my writing about the USFS.

  13. John Smith May 5th, 2007 8:40 am

    Don –
    I’m a seasonal employee, so I’m not privy to budget numbers. I see what filters down to the operational level that I’m on, and it’s not a lot. I’ve bought many of my own supplies for maintaining my issued equipment, and use many of my own items in my line gear as they are far superior to the stock available.
    My reasoning for linking poor decision making with low budgets is two fold. First, giving greater and greater work loads to any individual is going to decrease the amount of time and effort that person will give to any single item, such as Davenport’s film. Second, google “Government Pay Chart” and look at the salaries paid to these individuals, who usually rank in th 9 to 12 range. They’re not terrible salaries, but compare them to private industry management salaries, and then think about the economics of the situation. Private industry is going to lure the best and brightest managers away with better salaries and more perks like not having their hands perpetually tied by congress.
    As for many of the services in the FS being unnecessary, I would like you to choose which ones we can get rid of. After all, the USFS doesn’t do anything that it is not tasked by congress to do in the first place. But, since your view is that the USFS just “…manage[s] a bunch of trees, dirt, rocks, and a few roads.”, I think that you’re as out of touch with its mandated responsibilities as you accuse it of being.

    Lou –
    I totally agree with you regarding what Davenport has done and what he and his film could do and become for the sport. I don’t even care that they legally used a helicopter as a filming platform. I use helicopters all the time to complete my job effectively, too. I’m no luddite.
    I do not know how much discretion the administrators have in deciding a case like this, nor even the particulars of this case, but two thoughts come to mind. First, the USFS is sued left and right by those on the left and the right, and I certainly wouldn’t want to set the precendent of allowing an unpermitted commercial film regardless of how low impact it was. This would likely produce a slippery slope of “if you allow that sort of camera, microphone, method, etc. why not this sort of camera, microphone, method, etc….” We, the people, would end up with either a free for all system or a set of arbitrary limits until the law caught up with the technology, which brings me to my second point.
    Technology advances far faster than the law does. Thus, it is now possible to make a film like Davenport’s in the manner that his group did where ten years ago it wasn’t. Certainly, the laws must be modified to reflect these changes, but think of the hodge-podge of the billion laws we have now and try to imagine the law changing everytime your phone’s piture quality improved by a megapixel. That the law changes slowly is sometimes good. Maybe, first, filmakers should develop leave no trace filming standards, too. Better them than the lawmakers.

    JS

  14. Lou May 5th, 2007 5:47 pm

    All you guys, thanks for the truly interesting and informative takes on this issue! This blog has guite the brain trust reading it! Thanks, keep it coming.

  15. dave keep May 6th, 2007 1:51 am

    i’m from ny state. i climbed pyramid last summer. i know what the summit looks like. i am surprised that no one has mentioned the “pyramid granola bar commercial”. it definitely caught my attention. there was a summit shot of a skiier that i believe could ONLY have been taken from a helicopter. the skiiers name was mentioned (NOT davenport). i don’t remember the guy’s name.

    seems to me that someone must have gotten paid for this footage. does that put the forest sevice decision in a new light?

    ps. i have seen the very cool commercial at least twice.

  16. waldo May 6th, 2007 8:32 am

    Lou,
    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that all of the 14ers have now been skiied from the summit by different individuals. Currently no person has skiied from the true summit of all the 14ers. The true pot of gold is still out there (just make sure you get your filming permit in first.) Sounds like a helluva fun way to make a lot of cash.
    Love the website- Thanks Lou for keeping it real.

  17. David May 6th, 2007 11:20 am

    As Lou noted there are many good points made in this thread.

    Most ski/snowboard filmers operating on non-wilderness USFS land, though required to get a permit, never get them b/c the cost is totally prohibitive. The fees seem based on the expectation that Hollywood is bankrolling these films when in reality they are pretty low budget affairs. The filming continues b/c there is almost no enforcement out there.

    While I don’t like these exhorbitant fees, I really don’t like having laws/rules that are selectively enforced. This clearly punished folks like Davenport who try to do the right thing, albeit a little imperfectly. I imagine they could have snuck a fair bit of wilderness footy in their film, if they had just been more dishonest. It’s a shame when the system basically encourages this.

    While there is clearly financial waste in the USFS, they are also tasked with a massive job and funded for a puny one. They are pulled in a million conflicting directions by a million different user groups. I’ve got my issues with them, but I also understand the inherent conflict in their mission. Heck, on this one little message board I am sure there are wide disagreements about land use.

  18. Lou May 7th, 2007 6:34 am

    Woops, correction: I just spoke with guy who was safety person and location scout for the Nature Vally Granola Bar shoot, and it wasn’t Pyramid. It was done on terrain near Highlands Ski Area by Aspen. The skier in the commercial is Max Mancini. Looks incredibly similar to the top of Pyramid…

    Waldo, yes, all but one or two fourteeners have been skied from exact summit. The Wetterhorn summit “ski” is open to debate, as it involved quite a bit of downclimbing without skis, in a short distance. But definitions of what a “ski descent” is are flexible… Over the years lot’s of people could have skied a few turns on the Wetterhorn summit cap then downclimbed some rock to the start of the East Face, Jordan had the vision to do it when there was some snow to make a few extra turns on, so that’s good. But I’m not sure it’s the standard now. If he’d kept skis on the whole way perhaps it would be the standard…

    Just so everyone knows, my standard when I skied them all was to do the best most continuous lines available with good coverage during an average snow year (usually in late winter or spring), but also to match previous known descents, and make every effort to go from exact summit. The matching of previous descents is important as one doesn’t want to be lowering the bar in a sport just so they can claim something. Davenport raised the bar, and perhaps Jordan did as well.

    Sunlight Peak is one that hasn’t been skied from exact summit as far as I know, as the summit is a big boulder that seems to always be bare of snow. But I suppose one could just put their skis on at the top anyhow, “ski” down the rock and claim a first. Or perhaps on rare occasions it’s covered, and that would be excellent.

    I think the main thing is that we all realize that with most 14ers there is now a standard for what a “ski descent” is in terms of whether you ski off the summit or not. For most, you’ve got to get the summit for a public claim. But the main thing is the line.

  19. Matt Berglund May 7th, 2007 7:27 am

    Hey Lou, and company;

    Really interesting read as i follow this. There ar very interesting points made on both “sides” about the USFS and there actions. My stance is the same as many, I feel the government is wastefull and somewhat detached from the community. At least locally here in Crested Butte.

    Very good reading though, this kind of dialogue is very hard to find as well as keep going on such a good level.

    Just wanted to point out that the Nature Valley skier is actually Max Mancini. Not sure about the filming permits and such, but I can ask next time I see him, because that is very interesting, and may prove helpfull to the ski the14ers movie.

    keep up the interesting conversation.

  20. Lou May 7th, 2007 9:29 am

    Matt, sorry about getting the name wrong. I knew it was Max, but was also thinking about the other telemark ski star Ben Dolenc and got the names mixed up.

  21. Don J May 7th, 2007 10:46 am

    John,

    It’s true, government employee’s pay is below the private sector in many instances. But, don’t forget about the massive pension plan that no private companies can seem to afford, not paying into Social Security every month, top notch health insurance, huge amounts of time off, and not typically having to worry about losing your job to layoffs, etc. There are plenty of benefits that don’t always show up on the pay stub.

    Obviously, the Forest Service does have an important job to do, some jobs more important than others. In my opinion, the USFS’s most important job is to maintain the health of the forest. Driving through Summit County these days, I can’t help notice how much of the forest is dead from beetle kill. Looks like almost all of it? Soon enough, all of Summit County is going to burn, probably in spectacular fashion. We’ll make national news, the governor will declare a state of emergency, and everyone will wonder why this has happened. This problem has been bad for several years now. Is the Forest Service doing anything proactive? Is this effective management of the forest?

    I guess there’s the old argument that forest fires are natural, and they should happen. However, I feel that our land has become far too populated to allow this, and I feel the Forest Service is failing in their primary duty. Why should we even bother to manage the forest if we’re willing to allow it to die and burn anyway? Given the choice, I’d rather have ATV’s tear it up over allowing the whole thing to burn down. If the USFS can’t get a handle on the most obvious and important issue, should we throw more money at them and hope they suddenly get their act together?

    I may be out of touch with the Forest Service’s mandated responsibilities, but I can see the obvious.

  22. John Smith May 9th, 2007 9:16 pm

    Don,

    According to my paystub, I still pay Social Security taxes, and I was out of work two years ago due to budget cuts. Also, many jobs do offer 4 to six month layoff periods each year. That’s “laid off”, as in no pay, no benefits, for up to half of every year. And sure, not many companies offer defined benefit retirements anymore, not since they dumped all of their previous guarantees on the fed’s PBGC, letting us taxpayers pick up their tabs. Laissez-faire indeed.
    Additionally, a great number of FS personel are needed for fire fighting duties. 25 firefighters were killed last season, and how many co-workers have you met who have burn scars on their bodies from a normal part of their job? Moreso, crew bosses and commanders can now be sued and even prosecuted by people with plenty of spare time and comfortable chairs for split second decisions made under duress.
    If the USFS offers such cush jobs, why aren’t you clamoring for a position? Also, you still haven’t specified any jobs that you think “could be viewed as completely unnecessary” or are “more important than others.” I wouldn’t look at any of your schematics and say “I don’t see that bolt doing anything right now” or “that support is too costly, just get rid of it” without some justification. As an engineer, you must know that some seemingly simple and obvious things can really be very complex under the surface.
    Frankly, I find your account of the events coming to Summit County to be spot on. Summit is covered, nearly end to end, in Lodgepole Pine. Lodgepole forests burn roughly every 200 years in stand regeneration fires. It’s how the species reproduces. That’s why all the trees in Summit are nearly the same height and diameter. They’re all the same age; a generation resulting from the last catastrophic fire or blowdown event. Once the old forest canopy was removed, the saplings were able to get sunlight, and they all grew together.
    Summit’s forests also suffered a similar beetle infestation in the 1970s, and likely for centuries before that, so pine beetle populations are nothing new. The current pine beetle infestation in Summit has been exacerbated by the recent drought. Less water for the trees equals less sap in the living tree rings and thus less resistance for the burrowing bugs. Also, greater density of the forests due to decades of total fire suppression and the natural density of Lodgepole stands decreases the distance any one beetle needs to travel to find another home, increasing their rates of survival, reproduction, and spread.
    Blaming the Forest Service for natural processes that involve millions of trees, billions of bugs, and years of weather trends is beyond irrational. If you consider the USFS’s primary mission to be that of “Forest Doctor” as you alluded, then by your standards we should judge doctors by how many people they keep alive indefinitely and punish those whose patients eventually get sick and die. Our forests exist in a state of dynamic balance, not the static state that seems apparent from the road. There are continuous changes occuring in the forests, and there are acts of God and short- and long-term forces of nature that mankind is totally powerless to force our will upon. Claiming that the USFS is incompetent or wasteful because it cannot acheive what no one in history has
    achieved bankrupts the meaning of the term “unreasonable demands”.
    Now, what can we do to be proactive in this situation? Mostly labor intensive fuels reduction — which — is exactly what I was arguing for in my first post regarding the lack of funding for adequate resource protection. The particulars of that sort of work in Summit are also messy, but I won’t get into that here.
    Fire suppression is also a messy issue, but I generally agree with you, which is why I took a primary fire job with the FS. In fact, the USFS spent 40%, or $1.5 billion, of its budget in ’06 on fire fighting efforts. We can extrapolate that out to find the total USFS budget of roughly $3.75bn, or 0.14% of the Federal budget for 2006 (14 cents out of $100). We spend more than that in one month in Iraq. Assuming that the feds get 100% of their budget from income taxes (which they don’t) and that we all pay the highest income tax bracket (which we don’t), that works out to just over 4.5 cents per $100 of pre-tax income for all of the work that the FS does. Granted, nickles and dimes add up, but these budget amounts simply do not leave much room for the amount of waste you insinuate the FS is responsible for.
    I also want to say that I didn’t wake up one day and decide that I wanted to become a bureaucrat defending the status-quo in search of a fat pension. I also believe that there are more effective and efficient manners in which to manage our resources that reflect a more modern land ethic, but right now, I don’t know what they are. If anyone here can suggest a workable alternative, I’m all ears, but all I’m reading here is a list of complaints without ideas. So I challenge Lou and all the readers here to really make some suggestions. Maybe some good can come of this debate.

    JS

  23. Lou May 10th, 2007 5:53 am

    Interesting post JS and some good points. But not presenting solutions to a problem doesn’t invalidate a statement about a problem existing. In other words, a list of complaints is okay. We form and fund government agencies to handle the problems we can’t take care of ourselves. That is why the USFS exists. An imperfect situation for sure, but you can’t shirk your duty by talking about “lists…without ideas.”

    Not everyone can be an expert in every field of human endeavor. Forest management is one such. It’s easy to see many of the problems, and we hope there are a few in your organization with the expertise to know the solutions. And yes, citizens also can use logic and what expertise they have to suggest solutions. Here are a few:

    Snowmobiles in legal wilderness: Send interns out on snowmobiles (isn’t that a couple of nice sleds parked down the street from here at the Carbondale USFS office?) on any Saturday to any number of sled play areas that border on wilderness. Go to the wilderness boundary. Take names. Send out letters. There has to be enough budget for that. When budget permits, send rangers out on snowmobiles in same situation. Write tickets. Lots of tickets. If the USFS can afford to have wilderness rangers tromping around in the summer, it can certainly afford to have a few of them out there in the winter doing something useful instead of harassing backpackers who are camped too close to a lake.

    Roads: District rangers have broad discretion on Forest Service road gating. Open the roads earlier in the spring. If they get a few ruts in the mud that’s just normal and has been happening since the days of covered wagons. Be proud about the network of roads we have that access the backcountry. They are not a necessary evil. They are an excellent, incredible resource for recreation, fire suppression, rescue, more. The vast majority of backcountry recreationists like our roads. Listen to us instead of the “roads are evil” minority of enviro fanatics.

    Along with that, stop paying for heavy equipment to grade our rougher highcountry jeep trails here in the White River NF. What a ridiculous waste of money that could be used for other things.

    Other ideas, anyone?

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