by Barry Walsh

John Gray (2nd from right) listens to Jeff Vowell (far left) questions a speaker at the annual Spring Symposium

At the 2001 Spring Symposium on April 24 and 25 in Gainesville, the Florida Division of the Society of American Foresters and the University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation provided briefings by policy wonks (specialists), including foresters, politicians, economists, and environmentalists. ?At the Crossroads of Forest Management, Science, and Policy? offered practical tips on how to get forest science on the table where policy deals are cut.

The buzzword was TMDLs, defined by one Capitol Hill type as ?Too Many Damn Lawyers.? Total Maximum Daily Loads are at the core of Clean Water Act regulations, and several speakers congratulated SAF for its effectiveness in blocking proposed point-source permits for silviculture.

The Symposium opened with the annual John Gray Lecture. Dr. Gray himself, former director of the UF forestry school, was there and received a standing ovation. The 2001 Lecture, “Science in Service to Society: The Role of Research,” was delivered by a Weyerhaeuser team of Drs. Peter Farnum and Christine Dean. Dr. Dean, Director of Research for the company’s Western Timberlands, opened with a description of “eco-warriors” raiding a research greenhouse to smash what they thought were evil mutant tree seedlings; actually it was a raspberry breeding experiment. The attack was an example, she said, of the scientist caught between social issues and research. Dr. Farnum, Vice President of Forestry and Raw Materials Research, profiled three research types: the Ivory Tower scientist who keeps a distance from social issues; the Precautionary scientist, who reacts to risk by taking precautions; and the Cognizant and Transparent scientist, who limits opinions to her expertise but tells that like it is. Farnum recommends the last.

The annual John Gray Lecture was delivered by a Weyerhaeuser team of Peter Farnum, Vice President of Forestry and Raw Materials Research, and Christine Dean, Director of Research for Western Timberlands

At the lunch break, Florida SAF Chair John Holzaepfel and Awards Chair Sam Van Hook presented certificates of merit to two SAF Golden Members. Dr. Robert Bond, former Dean of Penn State University School of Forestry, now retired and residing in Leesburg, and Carlis McLeod of Palatka, retired from Hudson Pulp and Paper/International Paper; both joined SAF in 1951. Dr. Alan Long, UF forestry professor, was presented the C. Huxley Coulter Award (Huxley was State Forester 1945-1969). Among Dr. Long’s ?contributions to the profession of forestry? are offices held, including past chair of the Florida SAF and chair of the Spring Symposium for the past 6 years. Dr. Ed Barnard, Florida Division of Forestry and past chair of the Florida SAF, received a Certificate of Merit for his service, which included moderator-timekeeper of the Symposium.

Division Chairman John Holzaepfel and Awards Committee Chairman Sam Van Hook present certificates to Golden Members, Robert Bond and Carlis McLeod.

Professor Alan Long, University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation, receives the C. Huxley Coulter Award for service as past chair of the Florida SAF and 6-year chair of the Spring Symposium. Making the presentation is Florida SAF chair John Holzaepfel

Leadoff speaker on Forest Management and the Policy Process was Chris Schloesser, Senior Legislative Assistant for Congressman Allen Boyd (FL-D). Schloesser urged foresters to develop working relationships with Congressional offices in their home state. These local staffers, and he mentioned former state forester Harold Mikell (in the audience) as a star example, have the ear of the Washington office and can relay forestry’s message to Capitol Hill. He cautioned, though, that a career’s worth of research must be distilled to one page to be read by Congressional staffers.

John Goodin, Chief, EPA Wetlands and Aquatic Resources Regulatory Branch, Washington, D.C., explained how rule-making agencies access scientific information. He began by quoting EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, who has said, “We will use strong science.” EPA hires scientists, collaborates with other agencies, and looks to the National Academy of Sciences for answers to what-is-a-wetland types of questions. Reports can be 2 years in the making, and he noted that NAS staffers quip, “We may be expensive, but at least we take a long time.”

Chris Schloesser, aide to Congressman Alan Boyd (left) and John Goodin, Chief, EPA Wetlands and Aquatic Resources Regulatory Branch, Washington

Dr. Jim Shepard, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Gainesville, described water quality research at NCASI, a nonprofit research organization founded in 1943 and funded by the dues of 80 forest product companies. He joked that a group of hunters attended a TMDL hearing, because they thought it meant ?Turn My Dogs Loose.? He explained that when EPA proposed to regulate silviculture as a point source of water pollution, based on its report that 1,040 water bodies were being affected, NCASI took part in research that reduced that number to 84. SAF and the National Association of State Foresters published the research, which effectively blocked the proposed permits. Dr. Shepard noted that states have until 2004 to put into use Best Management Practices to reduce ?culture eutrophication.?

Jeff Vowell, Forest Hydrologist, Florida Division of Forestry, Tallahassee, emphasized that BMPs increase in importance as TMDLs are established. DOF is conducting BMP surveys every 2 years, and the latest figures show up to 96% compliance. EPA looks to the states to develop biological standards, and DOF continues a BMP effectiveness study begun in 1995. Results document the value of Special Management Zones in protecting aquatic animals. In reply to a question, he said that water quality/water supply issues face a crisis in Florida that will touch on forestry.

Michael Goergen, Forest Policy Director, SAF Headquarters, Washington, D.C., raised the question: science and policy, are they oil and vinegar? He answered that they can be a strange mixture. Differentiating policy and politics, he said politics is cutting the deal, and policy is what you do after the deal is cut. He confirmed that few on Capitol Hill read more than a page of research findings. The TMDL report had a 4-page Executive Summary, he said, but that included pretty pictures. Noting that Congressman Clay Shaw from Palm Beach (FL-R) is a forester, he endorsed working through local Congressional offices and being prepared to testify if asked. At a Congressional hearing, however, a forest scientist has 5 minutes to explain 20 years of research. He said to “boil it down and make it simple.” Science that enters through the hearing process then goes to lawyers to draft a bill, and in the process, science can go out the window.

John Hankinson, former EPA Regional Administrator, Region 4, Atlanta, said he has fulfilled every tourist’s dream—move to Florida and buy swamp. He worries about foresters creating an us-versus-them mentality on TMDLs but added that “SAF headed off a bad rule.” The forestry community came together and kept it simple, he said, and Congress and the public have little tolerance for complex technical disputes.

John Hankinson, former Region 4 Administrator for EPA

Jim Guldin, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Hot Springs, Arkansas, said that the Forest Service bases decisions on the best possible science, but researchers are not necessarily good decision-makers or land managers. He also described three types of scientists: the Ivory Tower expert who only produces information, the expert who produces information and helps interpret it, and the expert who takes part in policymaking. Forest Service scientists generally do not advocate a particular outcome.

Charles Maynard, speaking on behalf of Earl Peterson, Director of the Florida Division of Forestry, then made a DOF presentation to American Forests and the Arbor Day Foundation for their assistance in reforesting following wildfires in the state.

The SAF Student Chapter at UF hosted a bar-b-que dinner at the University’s Austin Cary Memorial Forest, 10 miles east of campus. Dr. Wayne Smith, Director of the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, led a tour of the conference facilities, including a large clubhouse on Lake Mize (one of Florida’s deepest sinkholes), a restored WPA barracks with two meeting rooms, and a newly completed screened outdoor classroom, with a solid wood floor that calls for a square dance.

On Wednesday morning, Dr. T. Bently Wigley, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Clemson University, reported on NCASI research on biodiversity in intensively managed forests. The data on the use of younger forests as wildlife habitat contests policymakers who see managed forests as biological deserts. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative asks forest products companies to be active at the landscape level. New landscape management and computer-based tools to schedule harvests will be useful in sustainable forestry certification programs.

Dr. Frances James, Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, reported on her research involving the red-cockaded woodpecker on the Apalachicola National Forest. In discussing ways to get managers and scientists together to make a profit and have older trees, she mentioned Safe Harbor mechanisms to encourage longer rotations by inducing private owners with rewards (federal money) and not punishments. Referring to the SAF bumper sticker, “Wildlife loves managed forests,” she advised, “leave big trees and don’t turn over the soil.” Her question-and-answer period was the Symposium’s most heated, suggesting unresolved issues with endangered species regulations.

The Symposium closed on global warming. Dr. Gary D. Kronrad, Arthur Temple College of Forestry, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, summarized his research on the economics of a carbon-credit market. He predicted that carbon-credit trading would result in decreased pulpwood, increased sawtimber, and afforestation on marginal croplands and pastures. Research results, he said, will show if forestry can stop global warming. Jeff Fiedler, Climate Policy Specialist, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC, with 10 years devoted to global warming, presented a defense of the Kyoto Protocol. He admitted to being a policy wonk who reads 1-page science summaries and noted that there wasn’t a single forester in the room when the carbon credit rules were written.
Before adjournment, Stephanie Brown, Deputy Director of the Tree Farm System, gave an update on the program, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. She invited Florida foresters and forest technicians to become certified Tree Farm Inspectors.

The Symposium’s message was that forest policy needs the input of forest scientists and managers, that SAF got it right with TMDLs, and that foresters who ask why they should join SAF can thank their professional society each time they begin a silvicultural operation, without having to apply for a point-source permit.