ArticlesWood and Plant Materials

The National Forests

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Science  20 Feb 1976:
Vol. 191, Issue 4228, pp. 762-767
DOI: 10.1126/science.191.4228.762


National forests are a valuable national asset. They produce important amounts of wood, recreation, wilderness, wildlife, and water, but good management could produce much more of each kind of output. The national forests are a major business enterprise, with $42 billion of assets and an annual cash revenue of $400 million to $500 million, but they have never been studied as business enterprises. The national forests are capital-intensive, but the capital is used wastefully, in large part because no charge is made for its use. Funds for management and investment are spent in economically unrewarding regions, forests, and sites. The availability of so much of their output at little or no cost to users seriously distorts management decisions. Major reforms in the management of the national forests are needed. If carried out, these could make the national forests much more useful to the American public.

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