05/25/2011 - Aldo Leopold, the iconic American conservationist, spoke of once watching "a fierce green fire" dying in the eyes of a wolf he killed, noting "there was something new to me in those eyes." The she-wolf was not just a varmint, and he came to regret his youthful "trigger-itch."
Likewise, the U.S. Forest Service must overcome its long-established "timber-itch." With the agency creating new rules for the vast acreage under its management, and the way we use these valuable resources changing dramatically, we now have no choice but to be concerned. The division of the Department of Agriculture that once responded mostly to the timber industry now needs to measure its mission not in harvesting trees, but in recreation visits, sheltered wildlife and protected water resources.
But old habits die hard. The agency had long suffered from such a timber-itch when Hubert Humphrey, as a senator and before he was vice president, fought to pass the 1976 National Forest Management Act. It was time to rein in overly aggressive cutting, and elevate consideration of other bedrock values like water and wildlife.
Read the full opinion editorial, Overcoming 'Timber-Itch', on The Miami Herald's Web site.