Paper pub. date
April 2015
ISBN 9780870718137 (paperback)
ISBN 9780870718144 (ebook)
6 x 9, 224 pages. B&W Illustrations. Map. Notes. Index.

Toward a Natural Forest

The Forest Service in Transition (A Memoir)

Jim Furnish

Jim Furnish joined the U.S. Forest Service in 1965, enthusiastic and naive, proud to be part of such a storied and accomplished agency. Nothing could have prepared him for the crisis that would soon rock the agency to its foundation, as a burgeoning environmental movement challenged the Forest Service’s legacy and legitimacy.

The Forest Service stumbled in responding to a wave of lawsuits from environmental groups in the late 20th Century—a phenomenon best symbolized by the spotted owl controversy that shut down logging on public forests in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. The agency was brought to its knees, pitted between a powerful timber industry that had been having its way with the national forests for decades, and organized environmentalists who believed public lands had been abused and deserved better stewardship.

Toward a Natural Forest offers an insider’s view of this tumultuous time in the history of the Forest Service, presenting twin tales of transformation, both within the agency and within the author’s evolving environmental consciousness. While stewarding our national forests with the best of intentions, had the Forest Service diminished their natural essence and ecological values? How could one man confront the crisis while remaining loyal to his employer?

In this revealing memoir, Furnish addresses the fundamental human drive to gain sustenance from and protect the Earth, believing that we need not destroy it in the process. Drawing on the author’s personal experience and his broad professional knowledge, Toward a Natural Forest illuminates the potential of the Forest Service to provide strong leadership in global conservation efforts. Those interested in our public lands—environmentalists, natural resource professionals, academics, and historians—will find Jim Furnish’s story deeply informed, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring.

About the author

Jim Furnish is a consulting forester in the Washington D.C. area following a 34-year career with the USDA Forest Service. He served as the agency’s Deputy Chief and Siuslaw National Forest Supervisor in Corvallis, Oregon. Furnish was a principle Forest Service leader in creating the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (2001), as well as in reforming management of the Siuslaw National Forest from timber production to restoration principles. He has served on the board of directors of several environmental and faith-based non-profit organizations.

Read more about this author

"This book reads in many ways like a love story. It starts with starry-eyed romance, evolves through the inevitable joys and disappointments of any committed relationship, and ends with a mature appreciation for a lifelong partner whose faults are understood in the context of a genuine though imperfect striving to do what is good and right in a rapidly changing world ... Borrowing from Oscar Wilde, Furnish views the Forest Service over much of his four decade-long career as an agency full of 'uncritical lovers' surrounded by 'unloving critics,' and himself as a 'critical lover' striving to lead a hesitant agency to live up to its full and considerable potential as a world-class conservation organization for the twenty-first century."

--Al Sample, President of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation

"This engaging memoir ... is a critical element of the environmental history of both the Forest Service and the Northwest, and also a heartfelt story of how a professional—tempered by experience and loyal to the mission of his agency—grappled with the complex challenges of our times and with the growing knowledge that facing the future means treating our land with deep and durable respect."

--Tim Palmer, author of Trees and Forests of America and Field Guide to Oregon Rivers

"Toward a Natural Forest provides a rich contribution to the literature of Forest Service history, focusing on the critical decades since the 1960's. Furnish's writing is clear and cogent and serves the broader purpose as well. The book itself reflects the accessibility, affordability, and high-quality presentation typical of Oregon State University Press. The result is an enjoyable read and an important book for anyone interested in natural resource management in the late-twentieth century."

-- Kevin Marsh, Ecology

"Furnish concludes in his bare-knuckled memoir Toward a Natural Forest with his 'green manifesto' and a discussion of the challenges the Forest Service faces in the coming years. Well written and clear eyed, the book is a good compliment to Skillen's book because of its insider's account of how the Forest Service struggled to implement ecosystem management on the national forest level." -- James G. Lewis, Forest History Today

"In his engaging new memoir, Toward a Natural Forest, Furnish outlines how the Forest Service transitioned from a can-do operation with a clear mission -- getting out the cut -- to an agency striving, and largely failing, to find new reasons to justify its existence."

-- Matt Rasmussen, High Country News

"I highly recommend Toward a Natural Forest to all who enjoy reading a well written, exceptionally honest and unguarded memoir, and I particularly recommend it to everyone who spends any time in the great outdoors, particularly in the western states."

-- John E. Riutta, The Well-Read Naturalist


Sign Up for Our Newsletter