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  Media Release      



Contact: René Voss 202-352-1353

USDA Forest Service Continues Losing
$$ Billions to Log Our National Forests

A New Report Highlights Agency's Historical Bias Towards Logging and Congress' Willingness to be Complicit

Cedar Ridge, CA - In the face of the overwhelming social and economic benefits from protecting our national forest for their amenities, the Forest Service and Congress continue their unabashed funding emphasis on logging to manage our national forests.

  • From FY1997 to FY2004 taxpayers lost an average of $835.5 million per year logging our national forests for a total loss of $6.684 billion over that period.
  • Significant reductions in logging in the 1990s due to Forest Service violations of environmental laws were not accompanied by similar reductions in funding. In the past 10 years, Congress has increased annual direct appropriations for logging by almost $100 million, while logging levels dropped from 4 to 2 billion board feet per year.

Taxpayer losses are derived by subtracting logging receipts that find their way back to the U.S. Treasury from Congressional outlays.

Historically, logging was justified to produce timber commodities. But because this is no longer supported by the public, the Forest Service has had to invent new justifications for its logging. Most new logging proposals now claim to protect "forest health" from insects and diseases or "reduce hazardous fuels" in areas where wildland fire occurs. These new types of logging lack scientific merit and are ineffective at achieving their stated goals.

They are also very expensive. While prescribed fire has been shown to be one of the most effective and efficient tools to reduce hazardous fuels and wildfire risk, the Forest Service spends most of its scarce fuel reduction funds on logging, often including large trees to attract bidders.

"This is the opposite of what they should be doing," said René Voss. "Larger trees are fire resistant and provide the necessary shade and moisture to mitigate fire effects. Removing such trees in the name of fire management is scientifically unsound. Moreover, fire helps to create important habitats that numerous forest species depend upon."

The Forest Service keeps most logging receipts to pay agency personnel to mitigate damages from logging, to prepare more "salvage logging" timber sales, or to construct roads for timber purchasers. This creates "perverse" agency incentives and encourages more logging. As a result, few, if any, logging receipts find their way back to the U.S. Treasury.

National forests were established under the Organic Act of 1897, which says that "No national forest shall be established, except to improve and protect the forest within the boundaries, or for the purpose of securing favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States..."

"Because of the emphasis most Americans now place on amenity values from our national forests, the Forest Service's continued emphasis on logging is clearly at odds with the Organic Act's creative language," said René Voss, author of the report. "Logging our national forests 'for the use and necessities' of our citizens is no longer reasonably necessary, given alternative sources and the economic importance of its amenities."

The John Muir Project's findings and methodology in this report have been previously verified by the United States Congressional Research Service (CRS) as a "reasonable estimate" of the net cash loss of the Forest Service's logging program to taxpayers.

The John Muir Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending the commercial logging program on national forests, just as John Muir envisioned over a century ago. We seek to redirect current logging subsidies into worker retraining and ecological restoration.