A generation ago (1984), the Forest Service clearcut 243,005 national forest acres. Last year, 21,226 acres. These and other eye-popping silvicultural statistics are found in “Harvest Trends on National Forest System Lands, 1984-Present.” [Someone with an ironic sense of humor embedded in HTML code two authors of the anonymous report — “R. Cut” and “T. Sanitation” — which show up on a Google search].
Other notable numbers include the five (“5″) acres clearcut last year across the Pacific Northwest Region’s 17 national forests, down from a high of 81,499 in 1989. Acres commercially harvested (sum of final and intermediate cuttings) totaled 209,289 in 2013, compared to the almost 1 million (902,647) acres cut in 1990.
For those who mis-spent their youth reading or writing FS timber management plans, you’ll be slack-jawed by the commercial thinning numbers — down, down, and down. I recall when many west coast national forests were planning once-a-decade commercial thinning entries on every reforested acre. Ain’t happening. Thinning once a rotation now, at most.
PS: In 1992, CRS forest policy expert Ross Gorte & colleagues took a look at the clearcut acreage numbers and had this to say about the future:
Although the Forest Service has estimated that the 70-percent reduction in clearcutting will reduce harvest volume by only about 10 percent, it is uncertain whether the decline in the area clearcut can continue, or even be sustained, when the [spotted owl] litigation is resolved and the economy recovers, without significant constraints on the volume of timber harvests.
Those “significant constraints” on volume ended up being realized.