National Forests: Building a Better Land Ethic

U.S. Forest Chief Mike Dombeck talks about national forests, alternative building and the future of our land.

| October/November 1999


U.S. Forest Chief Mike Dombeck has fallen in love with every national forest he's been to.


Do you think there should be recreational limits in national forests and parks? 

All of our activities need to be within the boundary of long-term sustainability. We must work within the limits of the land if we want to realize the benefits generation after generation.

Do you think there should be a shift toward a more universally simple lifestyle? 

Well, a simple lifestyle has always been one of my dreams. I do think that we should be as sufficient as we possibly can. And just as we need to support a land ethic, we need to help people understand why our land ethic is an important aspect of living by the land.

What are your thoughts on alternative home building? 

I think we ought to continue to research technology to see different ways of building and to look at the progress we've made so far; a lot of times we don't give ourselves credit for the progress we have been making. The fact is we're getting two-and-a-half times the use out of the same volume of wood today as we did at the turn of the century. This is [a result of] everything from our efficiency in milling operations to the utilization of a smaller diameter of wood. Oftentimes, use of substitute material for wood—whether it's steel, aluminum or plastic—consumes far more energy in the production process and has a more adverse impact on the environment than wood.

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