Barking Up the Wrong Tree?
Forest management has long been one of the most contentious issues in the Western United States, often placing enviros, locals, and government land managers at loggerheads (so to speak). But in some small pockets around the West, people are banding together to balance conflicting interests in local forests, a trend policy makers call community-based forest management. The practice shifts some of the government’s power to dictate the fate of public lands onto the people who live nearby. Proponents say it can put a halt to endless environmental conflict, while critics fear it will become a tool of the timber industry. In the Yuba River region of California’s Sierra Nevada, locals have drafted a forest-management plan that permits logging but also protects old growth and stream banks and prevents erosion. However, many enviros say local is not necessarily better. “Most of the legacy of erosion, over-cutting, depletion, damaged ranges, mine pollution, and species extinction arose out of decisions made in [local] communities,” wrote former Sierra Club Executive Director Michael McCloskey in a critique of a pending Bush administration plan to allow local trusts to manage federal forests.