American taxpayers lost $204 million in 1996 on commercial logging sales in the national forests, according to a recent report issued by The Wilderness Society. Eighty-six of 104 National Forests had red ink below the bottom line in 1996, according to the new report.
Using data from the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the national forests, the Wilderness Society found that the Tongass, a rain forest in southeastern Alaska, ran up the biggest loss - $30,592,000. All of the other forests among the top 20 money-losers were in one of five western states. Oregon had eight; Washington, four; California, three; Montana and Idaho two each.
The Forest Service concedes that its logging program lost money in 1996 but came up with a lesser figure. The agency, however, failed to include complete costs of building access roads, payments to states, and program office administration, the Wilderness Society charges.
"The average American has to wonder why the government is paying timber corporations to mine our forests," said Wilderness Society president William Meadows. "These losses have been going on year after year. At a time when the forests' recreational value is soaring and their timber value is declining, we should be eliminating boondoggles like this one."
Of the 104 national forests offering commercial logging sales in 1996, 86 operated in the red, The Wilderness Society reported. There are actually 156 forests, but some do not sell timber, while a number have logging programs that are administered jointly with other forests. "The economic and scenic damage are bad enough," Meadows said. "On top of that, there is destruction of fisheries and wildlife habitat, as well as pollution of lakes, streams, and rivers. This seems like the sort of thing you'd expect from the old Soviet Union."
Echoing Meadows' criticism was Martha Marks, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection. "We have a $5 trillion national debt," said Marks, a Lake County Illinois Councilor. "What's the rationale for a program that hurts our economy and our environment at the same time? Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress should be able to agree that reform is long overdue."
Last summer Congress had a chance to reduce the amount of money going toward forest roadbuilding. But the effort failed by razor-thin margins in both the House and Senate.
Many of the timber sales are in roadless areas. To get to those trees, the Forest Service or the logging company itself builds roads. That causes extensive erosion, stream siltation, and other damage. Once an area has been roaded, it is no longer eligible to receive the highest form of protection, wilderness designation, from Congress. Later this month the Clinton Administration is expected to issue a new policy for roadless lands in all the national forests.
Commercial sales, which were the focus of The Wilderness Society's analysis, are one of three types of timber sales run by the Forest Service. Another type consists of so-called "stewardship" sales, which theoretically serve certain ecological purposes, such as the creation of edge habitat for wildlife.
Many ecologists are critical of this approach. In 1995 most such sales were the result of the controversial salvage rider enacted in July of that year and now expired. The third category - seven percent of total 1996 volume - includes small-scale activities such as firewood collection and Christmas tree cutting.
Founded in 1935, The Wilderness Society is a 250,000-member non-profit organization committed to the establishment of a nation-wide network of wilderness and the fostering of an American land ethic. The group specializes in issues involving the 623 million acres of national parks, forests and other lands belonging to all Americans. The Wilderness Society has offices in nine cities, mostly in the West.
The full report is located at the wilderness Society's website http://www.wilderness.org/
When Congress reconvenes it is likely to take up the Quincy Logging bill early on in the session. The more people who express their concerns with the bill, the better chance we have to defeat this bad legislation. The Quincy Library Group (QLG) "Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act" (S. 1028 and S. 1079) will significantly increase logging on public forest lands in California's northern Sierra Nevada. Implementation of the bill will cost taxpayers $70 million over five years.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a bill sponsor, withdrew her support of the bill because it fails to protect ancient forests. Now we need to convince Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to pull her sponsorship of the QLG bill.
Please call, fax or write Senators Feinstein and Boxer and make the following points:
Senator Barbara Boxer, more than 140 conservation organizations, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times oppose the Quincy Library Group bill because:
The bill's logging plan is primarily intended to provide a cheap supply of publicly owned logs to local mills owned by Sierra Pacific Industries.
The Quincy bill increases logging on public forest lands in the northern Sierra Nevada. According to the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office and U.S. Forest Service records, the bill will increase logging by 77% over 1997 cut levels and by 187% over planned logging levels.
The Quincy bill threatens ancient forests. The Quincy bill would allow the logging of 194,000 acres of ecologically significant forest that was recommended for inclusion in an old growth forest reserve system in the report of the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project.
The fire risk reduction strategy in the Quincy bill is experimental and risky. Improper treatment of surface fuels and lack of maintenance could actually result in increased fire danger after the Quincy style logging occurs.
The bill will increase soil disturbance and degrade water quality. The Forest Service estimates the additional logging and the more than 100 miles of requisite new road construction will increase the level of watershed disturbance on the affected public forests by up to 300% over current management.
The bill is too costly. According to a November 3, 1997 report by the Congressional Budget Office, full implementation of this legislation will cost federal taxpayers $70 million. No money was provided for this project in the 1998 federal budget. The Forest Service may be forced to pay for this logging experiment by raiding their recreational budget and other non-timber funds.
Additional costs are not addressed in the QLG bill. The project could lead to 300,000 acres of "fuel breaks." A Forest Service report estimates the fuel breaks will require follow up treatments every 10 years. This treatment - either mechanical or chemical - could cost up to $1.8 million annually.
The bill is a direct taxpayer subsidy to one of California's largest timber companies. The bill's logging plan is primarily intended to provide a cheap supply of publicly owned logs to local mills owned by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). Last year SPI was one of the top recipients nationwide receiving public subsidies to build more logging roads on public lands. It also mandates low interest loans for an Alaskan wood waste mill and exempts the grazing industry from water quality protection standards.
This legislation is not needed. The Clinton Administration has stated publicly that the Forest Service does not need additional authority to implement activities in the manner proposed by the Quincy Library Group.
Please call - fax - or write today:
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein, United States Senate, Washington D.C. 20510, Phone: 202-224-3841 Fax. 1-202-228-3954,
firstname.lastname@example.org and urge her to withdraw the Quincy bill and
The Honorable Barbara Boxer, United States Senate, Washington D.C. 20510, 202-224-3553, email@example.com, and thank her for pulling her support of this bill. Urge her to stop the Senate from passing this misguided bill.
Contact: Steve Holmer, Campaign Coordinator
Western Ancient Forest Campaign
1025 Vermont Ave. NW 3rd Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005