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In 1992, the Forest Service adopted a new operating policy, Ecosystem Management, which minimized the agency's timber production goals in favor of a more ecologically balanced view of its responsibilities. In explaining this shift, scholars have dismissed the possibility of internal reform, arguing that the Service could not change without irresistible external pressure from environmental activists and new public values supporting biodiversity. Viewing the Service's shift through the lens of the spotted owl controversy, however, demonstrates the important role agency culture played in instigating bureaucratic change. The Service's evolution stemmed from the rising influence of its scientists in policy formation. Their research in support of protecting the owl and the biodiversity of old-growth forests thrived in an agency that nurtured scientific independence, and it thrust them into leadership positions. Forest Service science legitimized the arguments of environmentalists and crystallized public values favoring biodiversity into a new policy.


This article was originally published in Environmental History. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.


Environmental History


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