NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Charter Forests

September 17, 2015

Innovation drives successful management. But when it comes to public land management, innovation is often lacking. It is a pervasive problem in government, but one that is particularly pronounced when it comes to managing our nation's land trust. It is a problem that can be overcome by borrowing a play from education reform: creating "charter forests".

Charter forests would operate under federal oversight, including broad land use goals and performance standards to protect environmental quality. But they would have the flexibility to develop and implement innovative solutions to forest management -- something sorely needed on national forests today.

The charter school model can be applied to our national forests, saving on today's budget while preserving our nation's natural heritage for our children. Ten principles would guide the creation and oversight of these "chartered" forest, namely:

  • Charter forests would remain under federal ownership but be freed from traditional U.S. Forest Service control.
  • Charter forests would be governed by a Board of Directors for each forest and the Boards would, in turn, be overseen by a national forest charter board.
  • Charter forests would receive part of their funding from the government, with the other portion coming from entrance fees set by individual boards.

In response forestry expert Karl Ness says, "The Forest Service's organization and mission are too sclerotic and far outdated to serve the public trust in a 21st century world. Charter forests deserve a proper hearing."

Source: Robert Nelson, "Charter Forests: A New Management Approach for National Forests", Property and Environment Research Center, June 25, 2015.


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