This paper maintains that the Forest Service (FS), as an institution, is in deep trouble. It argues that the FS today is an agency without a unique mission and without a supporting constituency. For the FS to be viable in the future it needs a distinct well-defined mission and a committed constituency. The distinct mission needs to be generally supported, or at least not opposed, by most of the American people. The constituency needs to be committed to the FS to the extent that it will provide major support in the Congress for FS budgets.
The paper identifies some potential candidates for a mission for the National Forest System (NFS), e.g., as a biological reserve or as a provider of forest recreation. Another potential paradigm could be that of the Quincy Library Group, which apparently is going to receive separate Congressional funding and a unique management mandate for a set of national forests in California. This paper examines the feasibility of these missions and paradigms including budget and constituency support.
Finally, there is the question of whether the FS has completed its useful life and if society would be better served by merging existing land management agencies into an integrated agency that can better provide for the coordinated management required.