Can the Forest Service get back on track?

Chris Wood is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Çountry News ( He is a former Forest Service staffer who's now the chief operating officer of Trout Unlimited. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Since 2001, stopping fire has grown from about 15 percent of the agency's budget to nearly 50 percent today. Without forward-thinking leadership, the Forest Service agenda will continue to focus primarily on this one reactionary activity. Yet there is enormous potential for the agency and its 35,000 employees who manage public lands that exceed the size of Texas. Agency staffers could be turned loose to do good work on the ground.