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Research by the U. S. forest service

In the large view, the real level of achievement of the U.S. Forest Service of regional forest and range experiment stations must be appraised by the:

1. fit of station organization and of research projects to the realities and urgencies of wildland and resource problems;

2. imagination, coupled with discipline, used in project organization and method;

3. intelligent meshing of station work with that of other research organizations;

4. productivity of individual researchers and of staffs;

5. effort and skill used in putting research results promptly in terms and forms acceptable and clear to potential users;

6. self-control exercised in closing down projects or in refraining from costly and pointless dalliance in fascinating but futile minutiae;

7. vigor of reporting results which challenge saved shibboleths of practice and habit;

8. clarity with which complex interrelations of all values of wildlands are recognized, which is perhaps most important, and by the firmness with which directors prevent the isolation of lines of work and projects and, instead, bring about pooling of diverse skills and preoccupations on problems of interrelations.

The annual reports of the several stations, though dealing primarily with the immediate past and the immediate future, carry a reasonably clear picture of the value of each station's work.

The original concept of station organization as devised by the founder of the system Earl H. Clapp, included full territorial responsibilities; top direction by an assistant chief of the Forest Service; freedom from control by other general administrators; development of a staff of the kinds of experts, organized in divisions, appropriate to each region's major problems; development of field facilities for continuing work through the experimental forests and ranges; working out relations and division of work with other agencies.

This concept, as followed and applied, has worked well. It has shown desirable and justifiable flexibility, for example, in assigning a single line of research - watershed, fire, range, or timber - to a research center in California, and in the southern states assigning all lines of work to each sub-regional center.

At the same time, the assignment of work to stations has been stretched into the survey and program-planning field by perpetuation of their responsibilities for two major nation-wide projects - the forest survey and the upstream flood prevention surveys and plans. Much initial research into method was required, and the stimulus of the assignments has clearly found effect in continuing and productive efforts to refine methods and improve results. Continued handling of the forest survey stations has the further justification in that the principal aim of the work is to appraise the nation's forest resources through interpretation of statistics on forest areas and ownership, timber volumes rates of growth and drain, and current and prospective requirements for different forest products. Such work is conducted in close interdependence with other economic research. On the other side handling of now reasonably routine flood prevention surveys and the formulation of remedial programs can hardly fail to reduce the output of research by supervising research officers. Team handling by researcher and administrator, each in his natural field, might be advantageous.

Clearly, the stations have a lively understanding of major problems in the several regions, and have responded by allocation of resources and relative attention to the broad lines of work. The inter-mountain, southwestern and Rocky Mountain stations emphasize range and range watershed management; the eastern U.S. stations, the problems of rebuilding deteriorated forest, and utilization of low-grade forest products; the Pacific Northwest station, the conversion of great virgin forests into productive managed forests; the California station, the problems of brush-covered critical watersheds of protecting forests against fire, and of developing superior hybrids and races of pines; the Northern Rockies station, the problems of western white pine management, including silvicultural control of blister rust, and of fire control in all areas. Nearly all stations emphasize forest economics and many provide a service designed to expand forest utilization. Though range research has been traditionally an activity of the western stations, the central states and southern and southeastern stations are now involved in problems of woodlot and pine forest grazing, and the eastern stations are moving into forest influences and watershed management.

In this way, each program undertakes to give attention to regional problems below the rank of the headliners, yet appropriations and programs have not yet caught up with some of the new and insistent regional problems; for example, fire control in the southwest and watershed management in the vast inter-regional Columbia river. But some lag is to be expected.

Methods of planning and organizing projects are professionally disciplined and sound, as there is growing acceptance as appropriate of the mathematical theories of sampling, of experimental design, and of testing results. The evident virtues of mathematical criteria may, on the other hand, be accepted to the degree that statistical respectability is too exclusively the sine qua non of study design. For example, the Northern Rookies station has lately analyzed the vast accumulated and hitherto unsifted fire records and derived important relations and trends from them, i.e., non-statistical truths. Older and less precise methods have often produced worthy and enduring results when applied by superior minds.

The system encourages ingenuity and daring in method, and there is alertness in applying new technologies to problems of forestry; for example, in control of pests and undesirable vegetation by the vast array of chemicals and machines now available. There is, of course, a premium on both lower unit costs and on speed in covering great areas. Broadly, eastern stations emphasize rebuilding culled forests, and western stations emphasize ridding deteriorated ranges of undesired plants. There has been much ingenuity shown, too, in developing methods and appliances to measure the behavior and disposition of water under many complexes of soil, rainfall, vegetation and land treatment. One western station is involved in a co-operative study of cloud-seeding as a means of reducing lightning fires. The work in forest genetics at the California station and elsewhere shows full awareness of methods and ingenuity in adapting them to particular groups of forest trees.

These hallmarks of station research - ingenuity of method and awareness of the world of science - reflect the association of the stations with universities, an affiliation planned from the start, and one which has clearly been productive.

Development of co-operative relations with other agencies and individuals continues, both in division of the field and in setting up joint projects. The end is not in sight, for there are clearly unresolved questions of agency jurisdiction and professional jealousy. But, generally, a large amount of genuine co-operative work exists.

Productivity of individual researchers - that is, volume, promptness and quality of professional publication - inevitably varies greatly. By their nature many projects are slow to yield definitive results, and many workers are reluctant to accept the labor of reporting se eking always the one more year of gathering data. Legitimate delays occur? for example, because of transfers and through many current assignments to national defense projects. None of this is peculiar only to the U.S. Forest Service stations.

Clearly, the directors struggle manfully and generally to good effect with this widespread problem of research organization. There is little swindling of those who pay the bills. The annual reports are clearly in themselves a stimulus to keep analysis of data reasonably up-to-date and to produce progress reports. A multitude of media for publication has been developed and provides an incentive to authorship. There is small reason for roses to blush unseen.

It seems true that, with notable exceptions, appointment to the job of director, and to a lesser degree that of division chief, reduces greatly or eliminates the output of these selected men in the fields wherein they built reputations. It is perhaps asking too much to say that directors of research e an be most effective when they can themselves practice their vocation.

At all stations, there is emphasis on making results known in such form and with such clarity that they will be understandable to potential lay users of research. Many devices are used - annual reports, articles for trade journals, speeches before user organizations, station leaflets, distribution of station publications to carefully prepared lists of persons, demonstrations on experimental areas, etc. Potential customers must be very obscure indeed to be overlooked. Delight in popular science writing and in extension is by no means a universal component of researchers, but insistence on such activity clearly maintains awareness of a real world and real, if technically ignorant, people, and prevents withdrawal into ivory towers.

So far, there has been exceedingly little evidence of sanctioned and unprofitable hobby-riding that is, the pursuit of the last jot and tittle of data on projects of trivial worth, the sort of thing that makes appropriating bodies angry and mistrustful of whole programs. The relative youth of both programs and workers, the opening up of new and exciting vistas, the life and ferment in the program as a whole and in its parts, alertness of the direction, annual and often detailed review by hardheaded administrators and legislators, constant contact with the real world and its unsolved problems and with other scientific men have combined to offset the gravitational pull toward inconsequent senescence of effort. The wholesome retirement system has clearly helped.

One very great asset in building a worthy system and staff is the freedom of researchers to select projects of a highly controversial nature and to report results that bruise tender feet. Protective burning in southern pine forests, clearing of brush-covered land by fire in California, the effects of overgrazing both on forage production and on soil and water values in the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin areas, the true results of dollar silviculture in many regions, the self-defeating consequences of valuing public watersheds as though they were private utilities these are examples of controversial questions faced in the programs.

Reporting of unpalatable facts is frank and impartial. A notable example is the devastating body of data obtained by several western stations showing the accumulated and continuing ill-effects of overgrazing on watershed and water values, the total effect being to pose the question whether, on some areas, any range use can be maintained if other far superior values are to be obtained. Administrators of public lands and owners and users of private lands no doubt can see a day of decision approaching. In this way stations are carrying out their unchallenged role as an official conscience.

System, direction and the workers have blended to produce many combined operations. Some of the more impressive revolve around water and watershed protection and management. Several eastern and western stations have long-term studies of timber utilization and water relations-types of stands and of silviculture which will yield greatest flows of usable water and best protect forest soils and downstream values. Other stations in the west are, as noted, studying the range lands with similar aims. The newish field of woodland grazing and forestry in the south is getting wholesome and effective attention. Such examples illustrate the wisdom of the avowed intent that each station provide a rounded out service for all wildland values severally and collectively. From year to year, programs move toward greater attention to the many problems of interrelations.

In effect, there is no sanctified perfection in the system or its works. Users of results will continue to be impatient over apparent delays and gaps in programs. There may be chances to reduce work on projects which involve a heavy administrative load. But there is no sign that qualities of imagination, daring and intellectual ferment are diminishing, and there is evidence that politically effective support will continue to maintain the system's critical and worthwhile role.

U. S. Forest Service (retired), and lately of the Forestry Division, FAO

Cover Photograph: Korea. - Protected trees around a temple. The predominant species of the natural indigenous forest is Pinus densiflora, often mutilated by constant cutting and lopping. Some good young crops have become established near the battle areas where no cultivators have been for some time. Wherever protection is given, as in temple forests, the proportion of broad-leaved trees increases at once. Sir Herbert Howard (United Kingdom) was the forestry member of a mission sent earlier this year to Korea by FAO and the United Nations Korea Reconstruction Agency to prepare a five-year agriculture, forestry and fisheries rehabilitation program. (Photograph by Breitenbach, UNKRA).


India has accepted the honor and responsibility of organizing a Fourth World Forestry Congress. The Congress will open at New Delhi on 4 December 1954 and meetings will continue at Dehra Dun, location of the national Forest Research Institute and Colleges, from 6 to 17 December.

Previous Congresses have been held in Italy, Hungary and Finland so that next December will be the first occasion on which this aptly-named world parliament of foresters and technicians will have met outside Europe. As befits the locale of the host country, strong emphasis will be given to tropical silviculture, but by no means to the exclusion of other topics.

The function of this Congress, sponsored by FAO, will be to widen the horizon of foresters and technicians from many lands and to focus knowledge derived from technical, social and economic research around a general subject of particular importance to the future of forestry and the utilization of the products of the forest. This general subject, setting the theme for the Congress, will be the role and place of forested areas in the general land economy and economic development of a country.

The Organizing Committee set up by the Government of India has decided in consultation with FAO that the Congress shall first examine "the present status of forest protection and forest management in the world." Thereafter it will split up into four sections to give attention to separate aspects of the central theme. The sections, which doubtless will resolve themselves into smaller groupings, will be concerned with the following broad subject headings:

1. Protective functions of the forest.
2. Productive functions of the forest.
3. Forest products utilization.
4. Tropical forestry.

Under each subject-heading attention will be concert, bated on a limited number of selected topics, and these are being set out in a pamphlet about the Congress which the Government of India will shortly be distributing. This pamphlet will also explain how the Congress and the preceding field trips are to be organized and give details regarding membership, procedure for submitting discussion papers and general rules for conducting the proceedings.

The Congress will offer an opportunity for technical discussion and the exchange of ideas and experience. As a result it should help countries to design and co-ordinate their several forest policies, and therefore it is to be hoped that the sum total of sound advice emanating from the participating experts, expressing their free and personal opinions, will be impressive.

All countries are asked to give the fullest support to the Government of India and so help to ensure success for this Fourth World Forestry Congress.

Results of control measures undertaken by the Service de la Défense et de la Restauration des Sols, Algeria, on badly eroded slopes of the Blida Atlas Mountains are seen in this picture. Banquettes (terraces) with a gradient of not more than half of one percent were constructed five years ago across steep gullied slopes. Fruit trees have been planted on the banquette fill. Cultivation (lower right) is permitted between banquettes, once gullying is controlled. On the very steep slopes, the native grass forage growing between banquettes is cut by hand.

Erosion control efforts near Seoul, Korea. Alder, Pinus densiflora and P. rigida are becoming established on terraces.

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