Federal and State Public Forest Administration in the New Millennium: Revisiting Herbert Kaufman’s The Forest Ranger


Tomas M. Koontz is an associate professor of natural resources policy in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. His research on collaboration and public forest policy has appeared in such journals as Society and Natural Resources, the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Publius, and Policy Sciences. He is the author of Federalism in the Forest (Georgetown University Press, 2002) and coauthor of Collaborative Environmental Management: What Roles for Government? (Resources for the Future, 2004).


Herbert Kaufman’s 1960 investigation of federal forest rangers provided important insights into administrative discretion, agency culture, and natural resource policy making. Subsequent studies of Forest Service administration have documented that agency’s change over time, mirroring broad changes in federal public administration. But little is known about state forest administration. This article describes results from a survey of line officers in 48 state forest agencies, as well as state forest statute analysis. Results indicate systematic state–federal differences in legal constraints, citizen interactions, and the forest administrators themselves. Though these differences foster state administrator decision making based on professional expertise, they do not encourage the incorporation of stakeholder views into agency policy making, nor do they yield a bureaucracy that represents a diverse constituency. State forest administrators perceive substantial external challenges to their professional discretion, but it remains to be seen whether state forest agencies will change to more closely resemble their federal counterpart.