The Royal Forests

House Chamber, Washington, D.C.  January 7, 2011.  M. Speaker:
 
Much of my district comprises forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  Over the last two years, I have received a growing volume of complaints protesting the increasingly exclusionary and elitist policies of this agency.

These complaints charge the Forest Service, among other things, with:
 
• Imposing inflated fees that are forcing the abandonment of family cabins held for generations;

• Charging exorbitant new fees that are closing down long-established community events upon which many small and struggling mountain towns depend for tourism;

• Expelling long-standing grazing operations on specious grounds – causing damage both to the local economy and the federal government’s revenues; and

• Obstructing the sound management of our forests through a policy that can only be described as benign neglect, creating both severe fire dangers and massive unemployment.

Practiced in the marketplace, we would renounce these tactics as predatory and abusive.  In the public service sector, they are intolerable. 

Combined, these actions evince an ideologically driven hostility to the public’s enjoyment of the public’s land – and a clear intention to deny the public the responsible and sustainable use of that land.

Most recently, the Forest Service has placed severe restrictions on vehicle access to the Plumas National Forest, despite volumes of public protests.  Supervisor Bill Connelly, Chairman of the Butte County Board of Supervisors writes that “The restriction applies to such activities as: collecting firewood, retrieving game, loading or unloading horses or other livestock, and camping.”  He writes, “The National Forests are part of the local fabric.  The roads within the National Forests are used by thousands of residents and visitors for transportation and recreation.  These activities generate revenue for our rural communities, which are critical for their survival.”

This is not a small matter.  The Forest Service now controls 193 million acres within our nation – a land area equivalent to the size of Texas.

 During the despotic eras of Norman and Plantagenet England, the Crown declared one third of the land area of Southern England to be the royal forest, the exclusive preserve of the monarch, his forestry officials and his favored aristocrats.  The people of Britain were forbidden access to and enjoyment of these forests under harsh penalties.  This exclusionary system became so despised by the people that in 1215, five clauses of the Magna Carta were devoted to redress of grievances that are hauntingly similar to those that are now flooding my office.

 Mr. Speaker, the attitude that now permeates the U.S. Forest Service from top to bottom is becoming far more reminiscent of the management of the royal forests during the autocracy of King John than of an agency that is supposed to encourage, welcome, facilitate and maximize the public’s use of the public’s land in a nation of free men and women.

 After all, that was the vision for the Forest Service set forth by its legendary founder, Gifford Pinchot in 1905: "to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run." 

In May of 2009 and April of 2010, some of my California colleagues and I sent letters to the Forest Service expressing these concerns. I have also personally met with senior officials of that agency on several occasions in which I have referenced more than 500 specific complaints of Forest Service abuses received by my office. 

All that I have received to date from these officials are smarmy assurances that they will address these concerns – assurances that their own actions have belied at every turn.

It is time for Congress to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the abuses by this increasingly unaccountable and elitist agency, to demand accountability for the damage it has done – and is doing – to our forests’ health, to the public’s trust, to the government’s revenues and to the nation’s economy – and to take whatever actions are necessary to restore an attitude of consumer-friendly public service which was Gifford Pinchot’s original vision and for which the U.S. Forest Service was once renowned and respected.
 

Tele-townhall banner 

Latest News

Statement in Response to the Proposal of the National Park Service to Increase Entrance Fees, Including those Charged to Visitors at Yosemite National Park:

Last year, Yosemite Park management sought to drastically reduce the park's amenities that attract visitors and generate revenues. This year, it seeks to increase admission fees on those same visitors by 50 percent.

Angels Camp Third Annual Gold Rush Day

The history of Angels Camp is the history of California and the history of westward expansion.

Remarks in Opposition to Authorizing the Arming and Training of FSA (Free Syrian Army)

All of us recognize the threat posed to our nation by the Islamic State. The question before us is whether to arm and train supposedly vetted elements of the Free Syrian Army as a proxy ground force.

View more »

Search

Connect with Tom

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • News Feed

Upcoming Events

Staff Satellite Office Hours

Office staff members are available to assist constituents with problems or concerns at satellite office locations held throughout the district.  Anyone wishing to discuss an issue of federal concern is invited to attend one of these satellite office sessions and speak with a member of staff.  For more information, or to reach staff, please call the district office at 916-786-5560.
  
Upcoming Staff Satellite Office Hours for October:
 
Amador County

Jackson
Tuesday, October 28th
9:30 am - 11:30 am
Conference Room D
County Administration Center
810 Court Street
 
Calaveras County
 
San Andreas
Tuesday, October 7th
9:30 am - 11:30 am
Calaveras County Water Agency Conference Room
120 Toma Court
 
El Dorado County
 
Camino
Thursday, October 9th
9:00 am - 11:00 am
Camino Pollock Pines
Chamber of Commerce
4123 Carson Road
 
El Dorado Hills
Thursday, October 9th
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce
2085 Vine Street, #105
 
South Lake Tahoe
Thursday, October 16th
9:00 am - 11:00 am
South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District
1275 Meadow Crest Drive
 
Fresno County
 
Auberry
Thursday, October 23rd
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
The Auberry Library
33049 Auberry Road
 
Madera County 
 
Oakhurst
Thursday, October 2nd
11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Yosemite Visitor Bureau Conference Room
40637 Highway 41
 
Coarsegold
Thursday, October 2nd
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Yosemite Lakes Park Clubhouse
30250 Yosemite Springs Parkway
 
Mariposa County 
 
Mariposa
Tuesday, October 21st
8:30 am - 10:00 am
Library Conference Room
4978 10th Street
 
Nevada County
 
Truckee
Thursday, October 30th
10:00 am - 11:30 am
Truckee Town Hall
Council Chambers
10183 Truckee Airport Road
 
Placer County
 
Auburn
Wednesday, October 15th
9am-11am
NEW LOCATION -
Auburn Chamber Of Commerce -
NEXT TO AUBURN VISITORS CENTER
Conference Room
1103 High Street
 
Lincoln
Wednesday, October 15th
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Lincoln City Hall
600 6th Street
 
Rocklin
Tuesday, October 28th
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Rocklin City Hall
3980 Rocklin Road
 
Tahoe City
Thursday, October 23rd
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
NEW LOCATION - North Tahoe Arts Center
380 North Lake Boulevard
 
 
Tuolumne County
 
Sonora
Tuesday, October 7th
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Small Business Center Conference Room
99 N Washington Street
 
For further information on staff satellite office hours, please call 916-786-5560.