Monday, January 24

The U.S. Forest Service's Gordian Knot isn't limited to forestry

The John Batchelor Show / Fix America’s Forests: Reforms to Restore National Forests and Tackle the Wildfire Crisis (Audioboom podcast featuring Holly Fretwell, pictured above.)

From Holly's discussion with John Batchelor for CBS Eye on the World:

 "...there so many layered regulations that overlap each other that make it really difficult to get anything done on the ground.  We have the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act], the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Forest Act, the National Wilderness Act -- the [Forest Service] has to abide by all these different laws. By the time you get done trying to work your way through that, you're kind of tied into a Gordian Knot ..."

So that's how the Forest Service came to use the term Gordian Knot, which is closely related to Analysis Paralysis, which Holly and her co-author Jonathan Wood explain in their report for PERC (Property and Environment Research Center), Fix America's Forests: Reforms to Restore National Forests and Tackle the Wildfire Crisis ( See the report for details, but this passage from it will get you in the ballpark fast:

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), for instance, requires federal agencies to document and analyze the expected environmental impacts of their actions. The extent of analysis required can vary based on the degree of anticipated impacts. But for any project, NEPA compliance adds costs and can be a source of significant delay. For the most complicated category of projects, which includes large-scale forest restoration projects, NEPA paperwork takes an average of nearly three years to prepare.

Then what survives Analysis Paralysis is woven into the Gordian Knot, which is to say it's a wonder anything gets done to fix America's forests.

Now everyone is recognizing that a great deal must be done and quickly because the wildfires in America are at a crisis level. The federal government is overwhelmed by the task of curing what are very sick forests.

Holly and her co-author detail practical recommendations for restoring forest health that are summarized in John's discussion with her.  They cut through the Gordian Knot and get around the worst of Analysis Paralysis. Holly's can-do attitude gives hope that bureaucracy and special interests will implement the recommendations.

Of course, the Forest Service's Gordian Knot is not limited to forest management. Lawmaking in America's giant society has proliferated to the point where many laws overturn or block others from implementation, even when a new law is meant to fix an outdated one.

So, we are now less a republic built on laws as one that generates Gordian Knots.


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