I have a friend who needs my help, and I hope some of my readers will help him too. Back in 1985, the Antiplanner worked exclusively for environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society, reviewing Forest Service plans and helping environmentalists understand how the Forest Service worked. My research showed that the Forest Service lost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year doing environmentally destructive activities.
Walkin’ Jim Stoltz
Why would it do this? The Forest Service’s own historian argued that the agency was “unlike other bureaucracies.” It was “more like a religion. . . fulfilling a sacred mission to bring wood to the world in order to avert the evils of a timber famine.” Other people suggested the agency had been captured by the timber industry.
Neither of these explanations made sense to me as they were not consistent with some of the things I saw the Forest Service do. Instead, as I reviewed plan after plan and collected data on thousands of timber sales and other activities, I realized that the only explanation that was consistent with all the agency’s policies was budget maximization. This did not mean that anyone in the agency necessarily thought, “How can I maximize my budget today?” Instead, through a process similar to natural selection, those policies that maximized the agency’s budget tended to be favored over ones that did not.