Herger: U.S. Forest Service conference
a '60s happening
early Nov 1998
By Kara Altenbaumer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- An upcoming U.S. Forest Service conference is being advertised
as an exercise in
"creating community," developing a "preferred future."
and exposing the "simultaneous and sometimes
conflicting realities" within
the agency. To Rep. Wally Herger. R-Marysville, it sounds like bell bottoms
love beads. "It boils down to a paid vacation for something that's
totally off-the- wall," Herger said.
"It sounds like something back in
the '60s at Berkeley."
The in-house conference is scheduled for Nov. 18-20 in Sacramento.
About 700 of the agency's 4,600
California employees are expected to attend. Field and office workers and agency managers will sit around
where they will have "inter-active sessions" on a variety of topics, according
to the Forest Service.
But Herger, who often criticizes the inner workings of the forest agency,
questioned the conference value.
"I just can't imagine at a time when we're laying off hundreds of Forest
Service employees to spend half a
million to explore 'alternative realities'
and 'everyone's truth is truth'," Herger said.
But when you manage one-fifth of the land in California, sometimes
you have to get creative, said a
California Forest Service spokesman. The
state is home to 11 national forests, with eight of them in Herger's
north of Sacramento. Matt Mathes said Herger's assessment is all
wrong. The agency is only trying
new solutions for a changing organization,
Since 1992, the Forest Service has lost more 1,200 employees.
Much of it is due to voluntary downsizing
through early retirement, Mathes
said. Other jobs have simply remained untilled when employees leave.
Also, the agency has done less and less timber harvesting and road
building and has begun focusing on
recreation, wildlife and fishing, he
"With things changing as they are, it's hard for a large organization
to stay on top both internally and externally,"
Mathes said. This
is an attempt to do that." "We've never had a chance to get together and talk within ourselves
as a family." he said. "Families have arguments. We're ready to resolve
some of those arguments."
An awfully expensive resolution, Herger said.
The conference could cost upwards of $500.000. Forest
confirm. "To me it is total lack of responsibility to taxpayers." Herger said.
Herger, who is
a member of the House Budget Committee, said he plans
to make sure the Forest Service doesn't have
money to spend on such expenses
in the future. "If they waste half a million on this, I'll make sure that amount,
taken out of their budget next year." he said.