The New York Times, May 6, 2009, in an editorial asked "Who Will Protect the Forests?" Their's is a title, I know, but the wrong questions invariably produce the wrong answers.
The National Forests (within the US Department of Agriculture) have wilderness and related areas and these are "set aside" to be preserved and protected from major uses such as timber cutting. Hunting and recreation are permitted and protection of a sort is provided but in general these areas are following their natural processes.
It seems lame to continue to make these distinctions in such areas but the needs are real when it come to citizen input, the understanding of Congressional staff, and judicial bodies. The needs are understand that these National Forests are very different. I contend that every 10 x 10 meter square area of them is unique. It takes supremely educated foresters to analyze and prescribe for each such area. That action is part of their management, a type of control to achieve diverse citizen benefits from the lands and waters for this and next century ... then beyond. Preserving and preventing uses is at one extreme of the decision options. The decisions can be sequenced. There are thousands more of other options between that and the other extreme ... to burn, to doze, to trade, to sell.
Intensive site-specific management (and the legislation and budgets that supports it) is needed (often with GIS and computer assistance), not sweeping set-asides. Failing to get the needed management, then the set-asides" (call them "protection") may be all that can be achieved. Protecting forests from fire, trespass, insects, diseases, erosion, vandalism, air pollution, visual blight, and thieves are all part of management. Protecting them from wasteful or inefficient tree removals is also good management. Preservation efforts can reduce some protection, add significant, often-essential other protection. The decisions on what to do on the land need to be in the hands of the resource managers. (of course informed by the public about their ever-changing objectives). Modern sophisticated National Forest management includes protection.