The U.S. Forest Service’s plan to spend $10 million on a five-year public relations campaign has been withdrawn, the AP reports. The service did not explain the reasoning for pulling the campaign. However, the preceding sequence of events—which included a backlash from various agency watchdog groups—indicate that objections from current and former employees strongly influenced the decision.
The consensus, the watchdog groups argue, is that an expensive public relations campaign would be ill-timed given the service’s tight budgets and other pressing needs. Andy Stahl, director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, told the AP that after he learned of the contract, he sent an email to 25,000 Forest Service employees; responses were uniformly critical. Fifty of the replies he received argued that the money would be better spent on recreation programs, revising forest management plans, restoring ecosystems, hiring employees, and lifting a three-year wage freeze.
“Our primary reaction was one of suspicion,” said Jim Golden, a retired deputy regional forester for the service’s Northwest region and board chairman for the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, according to the AP. “Not many retirees believe the Forest Service needs a new brand.”