Problems & Solutions

Massachusetts Bureau of Forestry (BOF):
Problems and Solutions

(Originally posted on Joe Zorzin's website November, 1998.)

Problem 1. There is an absence of forest management on private lands.  Only 15% is under management by consulting foresters.  Management in these cases is the result of initiatives taken by consultants and landowners.  The vast majority of landowners under Chapter 61 don't even know who their `service forester` is.  This is the case despite over 60 years of `education and outreach` by `service foresters`.

Solution 1.  Stop wasting money on `service foresters` salaries, benefits and pensions.  Either put them to work managing state forest lands, or make them temporary workers and force them to charge private landowners and loggers for their time spent `playing forester`--as required by MGL Chapter 132, Section 6.  Until and unless the state can demonstrate good management on its own lands, it has no business advising private landowners about management on their lands--if it has any business at all in this regard. 

Problem 2.  The other 85% of private land is either neglected or periodically high-graded.  Cutting plans for high-grade cuts are routinely approved by the `service foresters`.  Cutting plans can in fact be prepared by anyone, including your five year old nephew.

Solution 2.  Enact real forester licensing to require that all cutting plans be filed by licensed practicing foresters.  The same requirement should be enforced for Chapter 61 forest management plans.  Give licensing teeth so that unprofessional work would result in revocation of licenses.   

Problem 3.  Only about 5% of the state forest land is under active management.  The rest is `managed` under a de facto policy of benign neglect.  This de facto policy is in violation of MGL Chapter 132, Section 33 which requires management of state forests for timber production and watershed protection.

Solution 3.  Turn state forests over to public trusts, and appoint boards to implement policy and supervise management foresters.  Make all state forest lands demonstrations of good forest management.  Include interpretative signs and self-guided tours for managed areas to educate the public about the purposes and techniques of good management.

Problem 4.  The `management foresters` costs are roughly 250% of returns from sales of forest products--as compared to about 15% for consultants on private lands.  They receive full benefits and pensions for their `work`.  `Management forester` annual silviculture quotas are only 120 acres--roughly 20% of an average consultant's annual production.  `Management foresters` don't do any inventory or boundary work--roughly 0% of an average consultant's quota of 300-400 acres.  All inventory and boundary work is done by temps at very low hourly rates.

Solution 4.  Either make all hires temporary--as required by MGL Chapter 132, Section33--or limit `management forester` budgets to 25% of gross sales, but supervise them closely to prevent high-grading.  Hire consultants on long-term contracts to manage some state land, and to create some competition with state management teams.  Hire consultants at professional rates to do this work.

Problem 5.  Cost-shares for management plans and management practices administered by the SIP program are at sub-professional rates.  Implicit ceilings on rates charged by consultants constitute interference with private business and represent a policy of price fixing.  The budgets for the coordinators of the SIP program are about 150% of cost-shares distributed each year.

Solution 5.  Eliminate the `coordinators` who do nothing except channel money that was formerly handled by the USDA Farm Service Agencies at minimal cost, and occasionally put out brochures that no one reads.  Take that money and increase cost-share rates by 50%, give some to Farm Service for adminstrative time, and allow consultants to develop cost-effective techniques for getting more cost-shares out to more new clients. 

Problem 6.  There are no civil service requirements for `management` or `service` foresters.  They receive full benefits and pensions, but don't have to pass any test for professional proficiency.  Hiring is usually done in-house without advertising.

Solution 6.  Either make all hires temporary--as required by MGL Chapter 132 Sections 6 and 33--or change the law to require real civil service for those few `service` and `management` foresters that would be left as forestry clerk supervisors and/or managers of state forest lands.

Problem 7.  There are no penalties for landowners who do not follow the schedules of practices in Chapter 61 plans.  They are allowed to carry over uncompleted practices into the next 10 year plan, or skip them entirely.

Solution 7.  Provide for a simple mechanism whereby landowners would be required to annually report on their compliance with the management practices in their plans.  Simplify the process whereby assessors could decertify non-compliant landowners.  Streamline the appeals procedure for such cases.

Problem 8.   There is a lack of professional leadership in the BOF and the Division of Forests and Parks.  The head of the latter department, to be called The Forester according to MGL Chapter 132, Section 1, is not a forester and has no experience or knowledge about forestry.  The chief forester has good academic credentials, but no actual field experience in forestry.

Solution 8.  If there is going to be a BOF and DFOP, both the director of DFOP and the chief forester must be people with education and practical experience in forestry.  Of the two, the experience is the more important. These two jobs should be fully subject to the rules and procedures of civil service.

Problem 9.  The BOF and the extension foresters have been spreading disinformation about the rates of tree value growth for decades in an effort to justify the necessity of subsidies of forestry through state bureaucrats and cost-sharing programs.  This disinformation is a root cause for the amount of high-grading and poor managemet that takes place.  In the absence of better information, landowners make the simple calculation that if their trees are only growing at 3-5%, they might as well liquidate the value and put it in the stock market.

Solution 9.  Organize a public education campaign for consultants to inform landowners about how trees grow simultaneously in volume, grade value and market value--for a total of 10-15% on well-managed stands.

Problem 10.  As indicated above, the BOF is operating in violation of  MGL Chapter 132, Sections 1, 3 and 33.  It may also be operating in violation of Sections 48 and 49 as regards `The Forester` not being a forester as defined by these sections.

Solution 10.  Either bring the BOF into complete conformance with the law, change the law to fit the current ineffective and corrupt practices, or change the BOF and the law.