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July 13, 2007



Smoke and Mirrors: Chief Kimbell is as full of crap as any politician. The aim of all this transformation or downsizing process is to get rid of enough people to fit in the new, smaller offices in the regional service centers. There is nothing wrong with our agency; the accident rate for our employees is well below many similar sized corporations. We do a lot of hard work and Kimbell knows it. She just has her marching orders from Rey and Bush to strip the service down and contract out two thirds of the work. She has also reintroduced the weakened NEPA guidelines. Bosworth is a company man, but he started to push back on the administration, so they got rid of him. In comes Abigail; she proved her loyalty to the administration by getting rid of the trouble makers (whistle blowers) in her old job on the Bighorn National Forest. She just the kind of person the administration needs to accomplish its goal: gut the forest service. Lord help us.


Its been twenty six years since Zane Smith and Max Peterson detonated the Bernardi Consent Decree time bomb, demanding that 43% of the workforce in Region 5 be female. Contrary to popular thought, court records reveal Judge Samuel Conti never requested, nor certified what was essentially a Forest Service order.(It was never a court order.)

By 1993 the 43% quota had spread to every other region, making the Forest Service the most matronly agency in the nation. Please see Dale Robertson's "Blue Book."

This was despite the fact FS was acting in direct violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, several sections of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, as well as multiple sections of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.

Nothing has changed since the 1980s; thus small wonder Dan Berman reports that Forest Service employees are confused about the future direction of their agency. The 400 employees interviewed by “Dialogos (who charged the Service $987,000 for uncovering the same problems agency mavens knew existed for a quarter of a century--money much better spent on the ground) reported “The agency is experiencing confusion and drift in its central identity and direction and ambiguity in the way it allocates power and responsibility.”

Was there anything in that statement at variance with the terrible events that the agency has inflicted on itself over the past twenty five years?

Dialogos states that fire related costs are now accounting for nearly half the Forest Service annual budget. Agency workers “described fire fighting as a burden and said it is unfair the Forest Service has to fight fires for other federal and state agencies.”

Well, to the lace curtain post-moderns, firefighting is more than a “burden”; in fact it is down right dangerous. Which is why special people who meet the rugged physical and psychological standards prerequisite to fighting fires are so badly needed. They may get thirsty, hungry, tired, exhausted, injured, and at times frightened, but they never think of firefighting as a “burden.”

Another of Dialogos’s findings suggests the inquisitions if not the purges of the 1980s and 90s remain at full throttle. “Even if they know their mission, employees said the agency’s culture is not welcoming, as they fear ridicule or punishment for raising unpopular topics or questioning superiors. ‘Individuals that raise difficult issues can be accused of being negative and subsequently feel their input is not welcome. They may even be ejected from the system. Employees do not feel safe to speak up with such a climate, adding to the perception of suppression.’”

Questioning the guiding principle behind promoting large numbers of women into positions they knew nothing of always brought suppression to Forest Service employees. So did qestioning the promotion a women to fire management officer over a man with many more years experience. Questioning the long held, very expensive agency principle of “creating non essential urban office positions are far more important than filling on-the-ground positions in the forests" brought mountains of suppression.

(What Chief Kimball should now be doing is vacuuming the cash out of the Washington Office, and those urban caves known as regional offices, closing them down and hand carrying all [urban employees included] to the forests themselves.)

And Heavens, don’t question the near exclusion of men from forest personnel departments, or the efficacy of transferring minority employees from urban environments into the forests of Oregon, knowing full well they will not remain more than a month. All the while the F.S. literally gives local youths an elbow to the teeth. Remarking on any of the above has left many employees not only suppressed, but mashed.

I digress: at one point in her interview Gail Kimball called into question the Forest Service’s once vaunted “mindset of can-do,” that quality that fell so naturally into place under the stewardship of Pinchot, Graves, Silcox and McArdle. Said Kimball, “[the mindset of can do] is diluting our effectiveness, overtaxing our workforce, and contributing directly to casualties.”

The "can do mindset" she is referring to once led to the thinning of slash, thinning of timber stands, the clearing of fire lines, controlled burns, reforestation on a massive scale, and maintenance of back country trails. Today, when and if ever these jobs get done they are are contracted out, or undertaken by volunteers who indeed possess a “can-do mindset."

More than any Chief before, this mediocrity has an obsession with safety, which she is certain will reduce casualties and minimize the loss of timber and structures to fire. Dozens more initiatives are pouring out of her Washington Office that in no way relate to the quality of the skeleton staff on the ground.

There is also her mantra “enhance diversity workforce and visitors.” As if a score of fortunes had not already been thrown to the winds of diversity, while thousands upon thousands of invaluable male professionals of wrong skin color were told to hit the road.

The single amusing moment within the entire Dialogos Report was Kimball's use of Einstein’s famous quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.” With every intention of following in the footsteps of her failed predecessors, there is good reason to doubt Kimball's sanity.
Sincerely Chris Burchfield

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