Introduction to the Second Century Report

Fifty years ago, the Forest Service was one of the most highly regarded agencies in government. Today, the agency is beseiged from without, demoralized within, and many wonder whether it will survive to see its centennial in 2005.

The Forest Options Group includes interest group leaders, agency officials, and policy analysts who met and corresponded regularly in 1997 and 1998. The group has jointly written this report as a proposed guide for the Forest Service's second century.

The group agreed that many, if not all, of the Forest Service's troubles stem from poorly designed governing and budgeting structures. Existing governance structures give interest groups an incentive to polarize rather than cooperate. Existing budgeting structures skew agency decisions and give employees little incentive to act efficiently.

After considering many alternative structures the group concluded that a final selection can be made only after empirical testing. So the group proposes to test several alternatives on individual national forests. These pilot forest tests would last five years, with an option for a five year extension. The results of the tests should help Congress and the public decide how to reform the Forest Service as a whole.

After carefully reviewing public comments on a draft proposal published last February, the group proposes the following pilots:

  1. Entrepreneurial budgeting: The forest is funded out of net receipts.
  2. Collaborative management: A collaborative board of directors oversees the forest.
  3. Collaborative planning: A collaborative board writes and implements the forest plan.
  4. Forest trust: The pilot forest is managed under legal trust doctrines with trustees and beneficiaries.
  5. Gross receipts/rate board: The pilot forest is funded out of gross receipts and user fees are set by a rate board.
While none of the pilots are perfect, each should, to a greater or lesser degree, improve forest stewardship, reduce the burden on taxpayers, restore public respect for national forest managers, and replace polarization with cooperation. Comments on the report are welcomed and should be emailed to

The following people participated in the Forest Options Group. Organizations are listed for identification only.

The Forest Options Group extends its appreciation to the Thoreau Institute for facilitating meetings and coordinating production of this report. The group also thanks the Lynde & Harry Bradley, Bullitt, Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice, and Collins foundations, and the American Forest & Paper Association, for making the meetings possible.

This entire report, along with several additional appendices, is available on the World Wide Web at For additional hard copies of the report, please send an email to

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