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A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service (The Political Economy Forum) Paperback – May 30, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0847697359 ISBN-10: 0847697355

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Product Details

  • Series: The Political Economy Forum
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (May 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847697355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847697359
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,081,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

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. (Regulation)

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)

About the Author

Robert H. Nelson is professor of environmental policy at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland.

More About the Author

Dr. Nelson is the author of many book chapters and journal articles and of eight books: The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America (Penn State University Press, 2010); Private Neighborhoods and the Transformation of Local Government (Urban Institute Press, 2005); Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (Penn State University Press, 2001); ); A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000); Public Lands and Private Rights: The Failure of Scientific Management (Rowman & Littlefield, 1995); Reaching for Heaven on Earth: The Theological Meaning of Economics (Rowman & Littlefield, 1991); The Making of Federal Coal Policy (Duke University Press, 1983); and Zoning and Property Rights (MIT Press, 1977). The New Holy Wars was the 2010 Winner of the Grand Prize of the Eric Hoffer Book Award for the best book of the year by an independent publisher; and also silver medal winner for "Finance, Investment, Economics" of the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards (the "IPPYs"). Dr. Nelson has written widely in publications for broader audiences, including Forbes, The Weekly Standard, Reason, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Denver Post. He worked in the Office of Policy Analysis of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior from 1975 to 1993. He has served as the senior economist of the Congressionally chartered Commission on Fair Market Value Policy for Federal Coal Leasing (Linowes Commission) and as senior research manager of the President's Commission on Privatization. He has been a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, visiting senior fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, research associate at the Center for Applied Social Sciences of The University of Zimbabwe; visiting professor at Keio University in Tokyo; visiting professor at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires; and visiting professor at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines in Manila. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University (1971).

Areas of Writing and Research:

Dr. Nelson is a nationally recognized authority in the areas of (1) local zoning and property rights to housing in the United States; (2) the use and management of the public lands owned by the federal government in the American West; and (3) the normative foundations of economics and environmentalism and their often clashing ways of thinking about the world. He is a member of the environmental policy specialization of the School of Public Policy.

Customer Reviews

Robert Nelson argues that it's time to abolish the U.S. Forest Service.
Richard K. Jefferson
Nelson's book is less a case statement for forest protection than it is for continued massive subsidies for industry exploitation of public land.
Patrick C. Burns
He doesn't offer any answers but defines some of the problems in a rather succinct manner.
kc

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The previous comment is correct in suspecting "thinning" argued by the author. The density of forests far exceeds what it natural due to 100 years of complete fire suppression. This density exists in the smaller trees, not the older trees suitable for saw timber (lumber) that are largely fire resistant. There isn't anyway around it, the problem won't be solved unless these lower or no value trees are removed, followed by a program of prescribed burning. Science developed in the 1940's and 1950's indicated that full suppression of wildland fires would result in a disaster by the end of the century. The federal land management agencies began to change in the late 1960's but the public and most especially the Congress and some presidential administrations would not allow the necessary change. Large timber companies were also culpable also as they lobbied to protect public forests for fear of losing saw timber resources. In fact, the protection of the large saw timber size trees has resulted in the loss of more of those trees than allowing a natural fire regime to function would have been. The lower level of saw timber harvest that exists currently is not contributing to increased fire hazard. I will repeat, the problem of flammability is not from the large saw timber sized trees it is from the lower or no value small trees. Anyone who claims that saw timber harvest is "thinning" is not familiar with the science of forestry.

The author also claims that "ecosystem management" is a top down policy and such is not the case. High levels of timber harvest as practiced in the past are unsustainable and came from the top down, from presidential administrations and from budget riders in the Congress.
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By kc on December 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
After reading this I would highly recommend looking up some of the books by Stephen J. Pyne. He doesn't offer any answers but defines some of the problems in a rather succinct manner.
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15 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Patrick C. Burns on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
With nearly 5 billion acres ablaze out West this summer, Nelson's book is well-timed if poorly thought out. His thesis is that the Forest Service should be abolished entirely and he's being funded by the Competitive Enterprise Institute -- a "shill tank" for less government and more big business profiteering -- to say as much. The problem is that the REAL problem (as Nelson admits) is too much fire suppression for too long out west. Nelson argues that a "fuel buildup" out west requires more "mechanical thinning," (i.e. logging for private profit on public lands). In reality, however, mechanical thinning is simply too expensive to do the job, while proscribed fires require a LARGER Forest Service budget to be effectively managed. It's hard to read Nelson's book without seeing it as being little more than a clever stalking horse: an industry-funded case statement for more rape and ruin of the forest. A visit to the Competitive Enterprise Institute's web site (one of Nelson's employers) makes it clear they have never seen an environmental or public health law they liked. Nelson's book is less a case statement for forest protection than it is for continued massive subsidies for industry exploitation of public land. When Nelson says "mechancial thinning" will not pay for itself, he is really calling for massive public subsidies of the timber industry. When Nelson advocates "recovering" lost revenue from "thinning" the forest, he is really advocating chopping down healthy forests for commercial purposes. Bottom line: this book blows a lot more smoke than any of the fires out west. We need more science and less "forest liar" propaganda.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The Independent Review on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Excerpted from a book review by Ronald N. Johnson in the Independent Review (Fall 2001)
In A Burning Issue, Robert Nelson argues that the U.S. Forest Service is demoralized within and besieged from without by a wide array of interest groups. He attributes this sorry state of affairs to the Forest Service's inability to define its mission in a time of rapidly changing values in American society. His solution to this predicament is to abolish the agency.
"The leading policy issue today on the national forest system--issues that demonstrate the inability of the current Forest Service to deal with the basic problems of the national forests--revolve around forest fire and its ecological consequences." Federal fire policy has sought to eliminate fire, but has instead merely changed its time and place. Wildfires have gone from being high-frequency, low-intensity events, which sustained certain ecosystems, to low-frequency, high-intensity fires prompting costly suppression attempts that have often proved futile.
According to Nelson, a variety of interest groups have converged to sustain the fire-suppression policy. There is litle question that interest groups shape policies and political behavior, but Nelson's book would not win high praise from academics for its application of public-choice concepts. Although Nelson may have correctly identified the underlying interest groups, he does not offer evidence to support his claims about their politicking. However, such an analysis is not his objective. Rather, he seeks to make the case not only that Forest Service fire policy, along with reductions in timber harvests, has been a costly mistake, but that the alternative approach advocated by many so-called environmentalists is also fraught with contradictions and costs.
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