USDA Forest Service
Services Role in Fostering Sustainability
Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth
Society of American Foresters, National Capital
Washington, DC May 29, 2001
Its a pleasure to join you here today. I
feel honored to address the National Capital Chapter
of the Society of American Foresters. I am proud
to be a forester and proud of the forestry profession.
My View of the Forest Service
Ive worked for the Forest Service for 35
years. And I was raised in the Forest Service. My
earliest memories include riding with my Dad while
he was doing inventory work. So my years with the
agency really include all these years of experience.
These early years did leave me with the impression
that the Forest Service is a good outfit.
As a Forest Service employee, Ive had several
different positions in the agency with experience
in both the field and the Washington Office
as a forester, district ranger, forest supervisor,
deputy staff director and regional forester. Given
this experience, I hope to bring a grounded background
to my work as Chief.
Short-Term Focus on Internal Matters
Employees are doing good work. And they have great
skills. We need to remove any restrictions that
unnecessarily impede them and provide the encouragement
they need to do their work.
In the short-term, I will focus on internal matters.
We need to get our act together internally to be
an effective public service organization. We need
to build stronger and better connections between
the field and the national headquarters. We need
to better understand how work in and the priorities
of the Washington Office affect the field. I believe
more dollars need to get to the ground. We need
to build better connections among State and Private
Forestry, Research and Development, the National
Forest System, as well as Business Operations, the
Chief Financial Officer and International Programs.
And we need to give greater attention to our performance
accountability as well as our financial accountability.
Early in my career, I remember dreading management
reviews and inspections. Weve dropped the
ball on doing reviews in recent years and are instead
letting the General Accounting Office and the Office
of Inspector General find the problems for us.
Finally, decisions need to be made at the lowest
level that they can. We need to build better relationships
with local communities and with states, tribes and
others. In my opinion, weve really constrained
the decision space of local managers and have seriously
impaired their ability to work with communities.
This is not about local control. To be effective,
we need local input and knowledge. And we need to
find local solutions to real issues by working more
So its fair to say I have a lifetime of being
part of the Forest Service culture, traditions,
changes and dialogue about managing Americas
forests and rangelands. Its a great honor
for me to serve as the 15th Forest Service Chief.
I am humbled to be included among those who have
previously served as Chief.
Sustainability as the Long-Term Goal
I know the Society of American Foresters is currently
reviewing the many facets of sustainability
and I appreciate this opportunity to share my views.
I applaud the steps SAF is taking to advance sustainability
within the forestry profession. There is a lot we
can do, and it doesnt have to be controversial.
Now Id like to take a few minutes to suggest
an approach for turning a policy of sustainable
development into action. I think we need to do three
- First, we need to agree on what sustainability
- Second, we need to agree on how to measure sustainability.
- Third, we need to agree on how to manage for
First, lets talk about what sustainability
is. Although there are many definitions, I think
we already have general consensus on what it means.
Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot put it this
way: the greatest good for the greatest number
in the long run. Then, in 1987, the international
Brundtland Commission stated that sustainable development
meets the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of further generations to meet their
Last year, the Forest Service incorporated these
ideas into an updated expression of the agencys
mission in our new long-term Strategic Plan. The
Strategic Plan states: The mission of the
USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity,
and productivity of the nations forests and
grasslands to meet the needs of present and future
generations. I think its fair to say
that sustainability ideas have always been part
of the mission of the Forest Service, but its
also important to recognize that our knowledge about
what it means keeps evolving.
We also recognize that the Forest Service is part
of a much larger effort internationally and domestically
to foster sustainable forest and resource management.
Since the Earth Summit in 1992, the United States
and 11 other nations with temperate and boreal forests
have agreed to use the Montreal Process Criteria
and Indicators as a common framework for thinking
about sustainable forest management and measuring
progress. Nationally, we value the work of the Roundtable
on Sustainable Forests to use the Montreal Process
Criteria and Indicators as a common framework in
the United States. Even though there are many challenges
to measuring sustainability, we agree the Montreal
Process Criteria and Indicators make sense. They
are a good starting point. And, in my opinion, there
really is nothing better.
So how do we manage for sustainability in the 21st
century? What is different? Sustainable resource
management means connecting environmental, social
and economic concerns in dealing with real issues
in real places with real people. We are using science
to understand management options in more comprehensive
ways; and we have laws that help us deal with all
three concerns. The institutional parts also have
to fit. We need to improve our capability to apply
locally what we know, and we must integrate our
efforts at different scales.
We cannot hope to achieve sustainability on an
isolated piece of land. We need to be concerned
about how we affect each other across ownerships
Local Solutions and National Responsibility
Conservation begins and ends on the ground. A whole
range of collaboration is possible. We will be judged
by what we actually accomplish. Unless people on
the ground and in communities manage and use natural
resources in sustainable ways, then what we say
and do at the national and regional levels means
Many of our actions focus on improving local resource
conditions and management practices in sustainable
ways. For example:
- Through the National Fire Plan, we are integrating
programs to protect communities and natural resources
from wildland fires and invasive species. Restoration
work requires removing small-diameter material.
To be sustainable, we must integrate the restoration
work with science and technology, business opportunities
and community development.
- The roadless rule is being further evaluated
by the Department of Agriculture and the courts.
I am confident this issue will get resolved with
a focus on how to adjust this broad protection
measure to address local specific conditions and
- The Administration, with our help, is also reevaluating
the National Forest System planning rule to ensure
a higher likelihood of implementation success.
Our new planning rule will be designed to streamline
some of our processes so we can move forward with
projects that will be good for the ecosystem and
good for communities.
At the national level, I do intend to continue
to support sustainability. We are advancing use
of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators
as a common framework for measuring progress. For
example, we are applying the Criteria and Indicators
to local conditions on six national forests to test
their usefulness and better understand how to integrate
processes across scales. We are working with states
(such as Oregon and Maryland) to shape state resource
planning using the Montreal framework. And more
work is underway at the ecoregional, national and
global levels. The key is to integrate our local
to global efforts in ways that make sense.
Success in the 21st Century
I believe our actions demonstrate our commitment
to sustainable development. Our success and
conservation in the 21st century depend on
making connections and investments every day across
ownerships and boundaries. We are part of a much
larger quest to achieve sustainable forest and resource
management. Challenges do exist related to recreation
demand, watershed conditions, data issues and information
tools, collaboration capabilities, and more. However,
sustainability can be defined, measured
and applied. Sustainability is not just
a slogan to the Forest Service.