A policy is a definite plan of action that guides and determines present and future decisions. Governmental agencies dictate public policy. They are influenced by the public, however. The government enacts public policy through laws or regulations in response to public opinion on issues such as civil rights, education, and the environment. Public opinion is shaped by factors such as race, socioeconomic status, and education. Those who keep themselves informed on an issue usually have strong opinions on the issue. They are also likely to let their elected officials know of their position. How do these individuals let officials know? Photo: Gayle W. Croft
Among other sources, public opinions come to the attention of the government via special interest groups, opinion polls, and lobbyists. These vehicles bring pressure upon officials to formulate policies that reflect particular interests.
Special interest groups are essential to making policy in a democratic society, but they have two drawbacks. First, it is human nature to support an opinion or policy that will be of greatest benefit to oneself, one's family, or one's organization. Second, pressure exerted on governmental agencies by these groups is frequently proportional to the money and power of each group's members.
Controversy among differing viewpoints makes it difficult for officials to determine forest policy. Forest economics and the appropriate use of timber can be rationally debated. However, a discussion of what people should do about natural resources often becomes rooted in personal views and emotions.
The varied demands people place on natural resources such as timber require that a policy be developed to guide present and future decisions. In this module you will be asked to recommend policies on the use of timber produced in the Northwest temperate rainforest.
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