…the Trump Administration is tasked with reintroducing Americans to the fact that national forests exist to support agribusiness, such as timber and grazing, and are not just tourist attractions and sanctuaries for spotted owls.
by Marjorie Haun
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) operates at the will of the Department of Agriculture, and with Trump’s new Ag Chief, Sonny Perdue, running the show, it is undergoing a slow but dramatic transformation. The Forest Service was created to ensure federal forest lands would always provide ample supplies of timber, water, minerals and other resources to the nation, but over decades of regulatory overload and ideologically-driven policy-making, the agency lost track of its mission, and became more about tourism and environmentalist activism than resource management. It appears the new administration hopes to return the USFS, and other federal land agencies, back to their proper roles of administering and protecting water, grazing, and mineral rights, and supporting responsible resource development on public lands.
According to Perdue’s bio on the Ag Department website, “Perdue’s policies as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will be guided by four principles which will inform his decisions. First, he will maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper.” So, given the fact that for a generation, media and green groups have perpetuated mistaken notions about what the Forest Service’s job is, the Trump Administration is tasked with reintroducing Americans to the fact that national forests exist to support agribusiness, such as timber and grazing, and are not just tourist attractions and sanctuaries for spotted owls.
The practical experience and personal background of a potential nominee for Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Erica Tergeson Rhoad, may confirm that big changes are underway at the Forest Service. Rhoad, who grew up in a ranching family in the tiny town of Gill, Colorado, has the support of key associations including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Montana Logging Association, among others, and according to a May 17 article in Northernagnet:
The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association endorsed Rhoad, writing they “have worked extensively with Ms. Rhoad during her tenure with the House Committee on Natural Resources on a variety of issues and have always found her to be knowledgeable, helpful, and responsive. Her experience on Capitol Hill gives her firsthand knowledge and insight into the legislative process.”
They also write that “Ms. Rhoad grew up on a ranch in Colorado and her family has held grazing permits on both Forest Service and BLM allotments, giving her real-world experience with the issues our members face every day including grazing, water, invasive species, Endangered Species Act issues, the abuse of the Antiquities Act, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). PLC and NCBA believe that Ms. Rhoad’s personal and professional experience make her an ideal candidate to be the next Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.”
The USDA Natural Resources Undersecretary oversees the U.S. Forest Service and the Office of Environmental Markets. And there are already many contentious issues on the table, including Trump’s executive Antiquities Act review order, Endangered Species Act reform, and the controversial Land and Water Conservation Fund. Rhoad, it appears, is favored because of her years of experience dealing with these often misunderstood, hot-button issues.
Rhoad’s resume reveals an impressive background in natural resources-related policy. She worked as the Policy Director for the American Society of Foresters, and currently serves as the Subcommittee Staff Director for the House Committee on Natural Resources, which is actively addressing the Endangered Species Act, Antiquities Act abuses, and the problematic LWCF. But the consideration of Erica Rhoad may raise the hackles of those on the environmentalist Left for reasons not related to her work in natural resources policy. Prior to working in Congress, she served as the federal liaison for the National Rifle Association. And although some may find her affiliation with the NRA troubling, it’s to be expected–and almost a requirement–for anyone who grew up on a ranch in Colorado.
Free Range Report