The term grew into a powerful phrase that signaled the longtime consensus view for managing public lands.
But today, now that it no longer stands for placing logging, mining and energy production first on the people's lands, some are suggesting we need to scrap "multiple use."
The term first appeared in a 1933 U.S. Forest Service report describing the five major uses of forests; timber production, watershed protection, recreation, production of forage and wildlife conservation.
The passage of the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 was designed to give each of these uses equality, since some in Congress worried then that logging was becoming the dominant use of national forests.
In practice, the act did not really hinder timber production or logging. Instead the term changed to reflect the majority support for productive use of federal lands and maximizing a sustainable yield of timber.
Four years later, when Congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1964, opponents labeled wilderness as a single, dominant use that went against the spirit if not the meaning of multiple-use management.
Earlier this month, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee described the traditional view of multiple use during Sally Jewell's confirmation hearing for Interior Department secretary.
"Multiple use is a principle that has become more or less synonymous with public land-management policy on the federal level," Lee said. "This is a fundamental concept, a broad-based concept that is designed to ensure that our federal public land will be open and available to a number of different uses... ."
Lee was trying to get Jewell to say that regulations, which could force ranchers to reduce grazing numbers below a financially sustainable level, went against the multiple-use concept.
"You would agree that federal land-management policies ought to focus on preserving multiple use to the maximum degree possible?" Lee asked.
Jewell didn't bite.
"Multiple uses are important," Jewell said. "Multiple uses in the Grand Canyon ... the Grand Canyon is a national park and it's got its primary use. In areas of oil and gas production or mining, that is a primary use, and I think it's important to look at things on a case-by-case basis ... . "
Jewell was reflecting the reality that there are places where one or more uses are dominant and places where that dominance is no longer recognized the same way.
Much of Idaho's 20 million acres of national forest is protected as wilderness, national recreation areas or roadless areas, which Idaho state forester David Groeschl said lessens "the likelihood of litigation when the Forest Service makes a decision in keeping with the prescribed management of those lands."
"On these 7 million acres (of multiple use), most actions the Forest Service deems necessary to improve the health of the land need to comply with onerous procedural requirements and are met with reams of paperwork to withstand an appeal," he said.
Groeschl points to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's trust model, which would put those lands under a separate trust.
"The establishment of a dominant-use model in addition to wilderness and roadless areas for some of our federally forested lands in Idaho would create realistic expectations and a clear mission for Forest Service land managers to achieve the economic, ecological and social benefits we all seek," Groeschl said.
Groeschl's views come from a professional land manager who has, in state management, a shield from the politics of federal public lands. He would like to share that with other professionals.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484