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Addressing the retention of biodiversity in national forests in the United States
Thomas, J.W. (1993). Addressing the retention of biodiversity in national forests in the United States, in: Fenger, M.A. et al. (Ed.) Our living legacy: Proceedings of a Symposium on Biological Diversity. pp. 47-63
In: Fenger, M.A. et al. (Ed.) (1993). Our living legacy: Proceedings of a Symposium on Biological Diversity. The Royal British Columbia Museum: Victoria. ISBN 0-7718-9355-8. XIII, 392 pp., more

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  • Thomas, J.W.

    Forest managers seem to be increasingly at odds with the public as to how forests should be managed: "for whom and for what". This situation must be remedied if forest managers are to be effective in maintaining the public's support or forbearance. Remedies for present forest management ills will, inevitably, include a combination of striving to adjust to public will while educating the public in the intricacies of forest management. To the extent that humans have dominion over Earth, we must retain and restore the systems and processes that, in turn, sustain the communities of which humans are but a part. Humans do not exist, except in our own minds, as entities apart from Earth's processes. Some people think that the outcome of the way we treat the forests of the world is certain, inevitable and bleak. They have lost hope of living in harmony with the forests. I choose to disagree. Why? Knowledge is cumulative. Most scientists who ever worked are living today. Our cadres of natural-resource management professionals and experienced land stewards develop, synthesize and put new knowledge to work. These scientists and stewards can develop new and deeper insights into how to exploit the forest and keep it alive and well. They care deeply about sustaining the productivity of the forests. That is not enough. Natural-resource professionals must always be ready to see anew through old eyes -to take a new perspective on how to exploit land responsibility. There is no shame and much honour in that. The land-use planning process conducted by the U.S. Forest Service over the past decade may have been the most productive exercise in the history of forest management in North America. How can that be said? It took much longer and cost so much more than anticipated and is leading to outcomes that leave almost no one pleased. Our developing land ethic, a human concept, must include the needs and desires of people, whicb implies providing goods, products and services from tbe land. Aldo Leopold's vision of what such an etbic might entail is a good place to begin. Now we must ask how such an ethic may be modified to retain biodiversity, maintain economic stability, preserve productivity, and sustain provision of goods and services, all simultaneously. We are further down that trail, intellectually and technically, than ever before. But the path not yet taken stretches ahead. The developing land ethic, however, must be applied with the question, "Forests, for whom and for what?" ringing in our ears. The most vexing of the problems to be faced will be linking the "for whom and for what" question with tbe biological capabilities of the land in determining forest policy and management.

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