Agriculture Secretary speaks at Seward Park
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave an address at Seward Park on Friday, August 14. Secretary Vilsack was introduced by Congressman Norm Dicks, Chair of the House Interior Appropriations Committee. Congressman Dicks touched on his committee's efforts to increase funding for critical Forest Service programs, including the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Initiative, which funds road and trail treatments--and occasional road decommissioning--to prevent environmental damage.
While Secretary Vilsack did not touch on recreation in his speech, he talked extensively about the interface between rural constituencies and Forest Service lands and the need to embrace local landowners as partners in providing clean surface water and wildlife habitat. He also extensively praised the collaborative Forest Planning playing out on the Colville National Forest, mentioning that in five years of planning, no lawsuits or appeals have been filed on the Colville. While that's true, the Colville has yet to adopt a plan. At that point, there's at least some likelihood that one or more parties will appeal. Related to Forest Planning, Secretary Vilsack indicated that, if the Clinton Administration's Roadless Policy does not finally survive its journey through the courts, the Obama Administration would consider a new rulemakeing. While WTA supports preserving roadless forest lands for their environmental and recreation value, the thought of going through another rulemaking of that magnitude makes me a bit queasy.
Finally, Secretary Vilsack spent time talking about the need to forge public-private partnerships and to reach out to other state and federal agencies for the good of National Forest lands.
All told, the Secretary's talk was informative, and gave an indication of the direction that the agency is headed. Clearly, more ground-level collaboration is in the offing. While collaborating is good, all partners in a collaborative enterprise have to deal in good faith. That hasn't always been the case, so we're very interested in seeing how it's going to play out.
If you'd like more information on National Forest policy, don't hesitate to contact me at 206.625.1367, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see excerpts of Secretary Vilsack's address here.