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Politics stunting forests' growth?

Robert "Bob" Schramek, 77, of Port Townsend, believes the

U.S. Forest Service has been given a bad rap.

His book "Conflict in Our National Forests: The War Between Science and Politics" details his experiences and beliefs on how politicians have influenced public opinion about how national forests are run.

Schramek retired in 1985 after 33 years with the forest service. He served in eight national forests across North America, working mainly with timber management and recreation.

"The first few years, I thought what I was doing was involved in making a difference but later, in the mid-1970s, a change of culture happened," Schramek said.

He believes national forests have been and continue to be misused and the public is wrongfully swayed to extremes due to political agendas.

"When I hear people arguing about preserving wilderness versus clear cutting, I shake my head. What's best is neither!" he said.

"Most lay people believe what the general media and environmentalists say. There are a number of folks who don't want to listen to either side though."

Schramek said preservationists aren't comfortable with people being part of their ecosystem. He is frustrated that because of their efforts, federal regulations are absorbing an average 2 million acres of forestland a year for preservation.

"That's precious land that could be used for homes, markets, etc.," he said.

"People like to think about preservation but they go from one extreme to another because with politics they don't see the moderate."

Schramek said many people do not see the value in wood.

"We talk about preserving wood, but it's all a balance. Wood is all around us," he said.

"Very few people make their living from the land now, so they don't think about where things come from much."

Clear cutting and forest fires are two taboo subjects that Schramek feels are essential to proper management.

"Ecologists know we need fire, but because of public concern they don't say anything."

In his book, Schramek mentions the 1871 Peshtigo Fire in Northern Wisconsin as an example of skewed perspective. It burned 3,780,000 acres and killed more than 1,500 people but it occurred at the same time as the Great Chicago Fire. The Peshtigo fire killed more people and lasted longer but because of its location, it was overshadowed.

Schramek's book is available at Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St., Sequim and at major Internet bookstores.

Contact Schramek at 385-5843 or rschramek2@msn.com.

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