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Stewardship Vision Underscores USDA Secretarial Memorandum on Forest Management

B&C Club CEO Tony Schoonen, center, attended the event and is pictured above with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, right, and Under Secretary of Agriculture Jim Hubbard, left.

On June 12, Boone and Crockett Club CEO Tony A. Schoonen participated in an event in Missoula, Montana, where Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue directed the U.S. Forest Service to establish vision, priorities and direction to improve management of the nation’s national forests. The Secretarial Memorandum signed at the event directs Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen to work to increase productivity, value livestock grazing, increase recreational access, and support active forest management. 

“As Secretary of Agriculture, it is my duty to ensure our National Forests and Grasslands are on a path to health and productivity so they can continue to meet the needs of citizens and communities, both now and into the future,” the Memorandum states. “It is the first priority of the Forest Service to serve the American people and work in ways that exemplify the values of Shared Stewardship. We need modern systems and approaches and less complicated regulations to serve our customers and improve our delivery of the goods and services that the American people want and need from the Nation’s Forest System.”

USFS Vision of Stewardship and Public Access

The Secretarial memorandum focuses on and provides specific direction within four primary areas:

  • Increasing the productivity of National Forests and Grasslands
  • Valuing our Nation’s grazing heritage and the National Grasslands
  • Increasing access to our National Forests
  • Expediting environmental reviews to support active management

As a primary goal, the U.S. Forest Service will modernize management activities and encourage the productive use of national forests and grasslands, in part by reducing regulations and promoting active management. The Memorandum also recognizes the history of livestock grazing on federal lands and supports efforts to improve rangelands, manage grazing permits, and work with ranching families and communities. Properly managed grazing can be good for forest and rangeland health as has been demonstrated at the Boone and Crockett Club’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch. In addition, conservation partners have been improving habitat for elk, mule deer, and other big game animals through stewardship agreements with the Forest Service that include timber management, removal of encroaching juniper, addressing invasive weeds, and more. These efforts show that sustainable harvest and use of our forests can ensure healthy habitats needed by a wide array of wildlife species.

Access to national forests and grasslands is also important to hunters across the country, and the Club has worked with partners on policies to improve their ability to use federal public lands. One priority, enacted last year in the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, directed a portion of Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars toward access easements or acquisitions. The new Secretarial Memorandum adds to this vision by directing the Forest Service to identify and work to develop solutions to allow access to these landlocked areas. It would also encourage land exchanges, improve technologies for mapping public lands, and streamline the recreational permitting process.

Promoting Conservation Through Active Management

The Boone and Crockett Club has long supported the conservation of our nation’s natural resources and public lands that sustain the diverse and abundant wildlife populations that exist in North America. A 2017 Club position statement outlining the difference between conservation and preservation recognizes that conservation focuses on using and managing natural resources to benefit people, but in keeping within the limits of supply, regrowth, and change, both natural and human-influenced. Alternatively, Preservation is a philosophy that generally seeks to keep natural resources in a pristine state by excluding active management and use by people. It is often associated with the phrase, “letting nature take its course.”

As stated in the Club’s position, “The Boone and Crockett Club maintains that the appropriate response to the challenges and conditions we face today is not a retreat to inaction or relying primarily on preservation, but instituting new, active approaches to ecosystem management that produce more socially acceptable and sustainable results.”

With or without human influence, the ecological reality is that lightning-caused fires, insects, disease, drought, floods, high winds, climate change, and other natural forces will continue to change ecosystems. There is no state of “natural balance” for ecosystems to return to, which is why conservation requires a very sophisticated scientific approach implemented by highly trained professionals. Activities such as harvesting trees and using controlled burns to reduce build-up of forest litter and overgrowth encourage biodiversity and prevent larger, hotter, uncontrollable fires from occurring. 

The Boone and Crockett Club maintains conservation, rather than preservation, has the greatest chance of producing the goods and services that people need as well as retaining long-term ecological integrity. Conservation provides the means and knowledge to produce timber from the most productive growing areas while allowing less intensive management over the majority of the forested landscape. This enhances biodiversity while localizing the impacts of our demands for these products. We also have the ability to locate and manage intensive industries (such as energy development) and urban growth so that it aids conservation—consolidating daily life and extractive industries in some places allows other places to produce the benefits of wilderness, scenery, and wildlife habitat.

The policy direction developed by Secretary Perdue’s new Memorandum will help improve active management of the national forest system, while also promoting energy development, and reducing regulatory processes. While active management and productive uses are important, the Club encourages the Forest Service to approach these efforts with a conservation perspective. This will ensure that our national forests continue to provide the necessary requirements to maintain a broad diversity of fish and wildlife populations that are valued so highly by all Americans.

As so eloquently stated by Theodore Roosevelt, who helped form the Boone and Crockett Club in 1887, “Conservation means development as much as it does protection.”

About the Boone and Crockett Club

Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club promotes guardianship and visionary management of big game and associated wildlife in North America. The Club maintains the highest standards of fair chase sportsmanship and habitat stewardship. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. For details, visit