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A Burning Issue

A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service

Robert H. Nelson

In A Burning Issue, Robert Nelson makes a compelling case for abolishing the U.S. Forest Service. Created in the early 20th century to provide scientific management of the nation's forests, the U.S. Forest Service was, for many years, regarded as a model agency in the federal government. Nelson contends that this reputation is undeserved and the Forest Service's performance today is unacceptable. Not only has scientific management proven impossible in practice, it is also objectionable in principle. Furthermore, Nelson argues that the Forest Service lacks a coherent vision and prefers to sponsor only fashionable environmental solutions—most recently ecosystem management. Creatively and cogently describing its history and failures, Nelson advocates replacing the service with a decentralized system to manage the protection of our national forests. A Burning Issue is a provocative study that offers insightful environmental policy alternatives. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 216Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-8476-9734-2 • Hardback • May 2000 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-0-8476-9735-9 • Paperback • May 2000 • $46.00 • (£31.95)
Robert H. Nelson is professor of environmental policy at the School of
Public Affairs at the University of Maryland.
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Scientific Management of Fire
Chapter 3 Ecosystem Management as Fire Management
Chapter 4 A Theology of Timber Harvesting
Chapter 5 An Illegitimate Institution
Chapter 6 Why Decentralization?
Chapter 7 Lessons in Western Political Economy
Chapter 8 A New Political Constitution for the Rural West
Chapter 9 Conclusion
Chapter 10 About the Political Economy Research Center
The recent wildfires in New Mexico and Colorado are a painful illustration of the costs of federal land management. America's National Parks and National Forests are in disarray; millions of acres are just one spark away from complete conflagration. Thus, the latest political economy forum book, Robert Nelson's A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service could not be more timely. For the forest's sake, let's hope that such an approach becomes politically viable before the next fiery maelstrom ignites.
Jonathan H. Adler, Competitive Enterprise Institute; The Washington Times

Robert Nelson has provided an ecclectic and very readable integration of recent commentary on the sad state of federal resource management. He explores the political and ethical terraine of the quest for solutions, encouraging an informed debate about community-based management.
Sally K. Fairfax, University of California, Berkeley

Nelson provides a devastating case against both the Forest Service and against policymakers' glib proposals for how to improve the agency's record. The book is a valuable guide to the defects of public land management.

This book should be required reading for all students of government, not only those concerned with foreign service policy, because it provides an excellent source in any attempt to understand the consequences of allowing a governmental agency to become so buffeted by competing pressure groups that it loses direction and becomes an even more costly entity.
Ronald N. Johnson, Montana State University; Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy

Nelson presents a convincing case that the Forest Service should not be allowed to continue performing these jobs as it has in the past. The strength of A Burning Issue is its concise presentation of the diverse philosophical, practical, and scientific problems present in forest management, and this alone should interest readers from a variety of disciplines.
Constitutional Political Economy

In this interesting and well-written book, Robert Nelson has made a compelling case that the Forest Service has lost its legitimacy. With an end of timber harvesting now becoming the main goal of the agency, actions to suppress fire become less relevant and the huge costs of planning appear fruitless. As an organization, Nelson argues, the Forest Service has outlived its reason for existence.
Roger A. Sedjo, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future