Northern Region's top forester discusses challenges agency faces

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"If you look back at the founding principles of having a system of public lands, a lot of it had to do with securing supplies of water," Weldon said. "That's an underlying service the national forests can play, and we're putting more emphasis on it. It's a transition in our culture we've been in for two, almost three decades."

Weldon listed the priorities as "ensuring quality habitat, quality water and healthy forests," adding that the traditional "forest" part of forest management would continue. But the old-style corporate logging is morphing into new "stewardship contracts" that mix timber-cutting with landscape restoration.