The Facts: Ending Logging on National Forests

By Hanson, Chad | Earth Island Journal, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

The Facts: Ending Logging on National Forests


Hanson, Chad, Earth Island Journal


Just over a century ago Congress did a terrible thing.

Under industry pressure, an appropriations "rider" was attached to the Interior Department spending bill, opening this nation's national forests to logging for the first time. Prior to that, national forests were completely protected from all forms of commercial exploitation.

A century later, the legacy of that early Logging Rider is marred hillsides, fouled water, floods and mudslides-the loss of our natural heritage.

I have witnessed this destruction with my own eyes, having hiked the 2,700 miles of the Pacific Crest Frail from Mexico to Canada several years ago. I remember standing on a ridge top in a national forest, looking 360 degrees around me and seeing nothing but stumps as far as my eyes could see-on public lands. Not a single tree remained standing.

Like many Americans, I thought my national forests were protected. In my state of shock and horror, as I hiked northward through clearcut after clearcut, stump field after stump field, one word kept repeating over and over in my mind: "Why?"

I have been working to protect our national forests since I got off the trail in 1989. What I have learned in the past 10 years has confirmed what I knew intuitively on the Trail: that there are no good reasons to allow logging on our public lands. Increasingly Americans are developing a clear sense that the logging program on national forests cannot be justified environmentally or morally. What has been less clear to people is the fact that the federal timber program cannot be justified economically. I wrote this report in the hope of giving forest protection advocates a powerful tool against bogus "jobs/economy vs. environment" arguments.

I hope you find this report to be useful, and that you will join us in our fight to educate the public and stop the logging of our nation's remaining forests.

Sincerely,

Chad Hanson Executive Director John Muir Project

Summary:

This report analyzes the issues surrounding an end to the timber sales program on national forests. Among the findings are the following:

* The national forest timber sales program operated at a net loss to taxpayers of over $1.2 billion in fiscal year 1997.

* If we ended the timber sales program on national forests and redirected the logging subsidies we could provide over $30,000 for each public lands timber worker for retraining or ecological restoration work -- and still have over :$800 million left over for taxpayer savings in the first year alone.

* We don't need to log national forests for our timber supply, given the fact that the timber cut annually from national forests nationwide now comprises only 3.3% of this nation's total annual wood consumption, and less than 4% of the sawtimber used for construction.

* Logging on national forests INCREASES the risk of forest fires more than any other human activity.

* A bipartisan nationwide poll conducted in 1998 found that 69% of Americans now oppose allowing timber companies to log our national forests.

* The above findings were reviewed and verified by the United States Congressional Research Service (CRS). In a report dated March 19, 1999, CRS concluded that, "As the commentary demonstrates in Figure 4, the timber sale receipts deposited in the general treasury in FY 1997 were a small fraction of timber program expenditures. Thus, one can conclude that $1.2 billion is a "reasonable estimate" of "net cash loss" from the Forest Service's FY 1997 timber program to tax payers".

Fig. 4.

Distribution of FY 1997 Timber Sales Receipts: (in millions)

Gross USFS timber sales receipts, FY 1997(39)                554.6
   Less distribution to K-Y Fund(40)                        -123.8
   Less distribution to Salvage Sale Fund(41)               -155.6
   Less distribution to purchaser road credits(42)           -36. … 

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