If a tree-painting committee meets and no one attends... (Maria Grants/AP)

Even the Loop—which is usually quite jaded about the intricacies of the federal bureaucracy—was amazed when this announcement crossed our desk: there’s a meeting slated for next month of an entity called the “National Tree-Marking Paint Committee.”

This august body is solely devoted to paint. And not just paint in general, but the specific paint that is used by the Forest Service. To mark trees.

According to the announcement, the committee will gather at a USDA research station in Flagstaff, Ariz., to “discuss the activities related to the improvements in, concerns about, and the handling and use of...” Wait for it... “tree-marking paint.”

Sounds as exciting as, well, watching paint dry. But wait! Here’s something to liven up the proceedings: there’s a field trip. It’s to the Coconino National Forest, where the Forest Service conducts testing on various paints, checking them for durability and heat-resistance and the like.

Even the Forest Service official who oversees the committee concedes that despite the importance of the issue (we’re talking somewhere near 100,000 gallons of paint a year, plus environmental and safety concerns), it’s not usually a hot ticket. “It’s usually just us and a few people we contract with,” says Richard Fitzgerald, assistant director for products.

So if a tree-painting meeting happens in the middle of the forest and no one comes...