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
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
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
"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.