Garrity: Taxpayer subsidized logging make no sense

An excerpt from an op-ed by our old friend Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, entitled “Taxpayer subsidized logging make no sense“:

“The Gazette found the Forest Service in Montana generated $5.4 million in revenue 2013, of which $4.1 million came from timber sales. But here’s the rub: that amounts to only about 2.2 percent of the $179 million the Forest Service spent in Montana in 2013 on discretionary projects, timber sale preparation, salaries, and transportation. Maintaining campgrounds and trails and cleaning outhouses represents a small portion of the Forest Service budget in Montana and that was mostly off-set by the $1.3 million in revenue the agency collected from recreation fees in 2013. In other words, the Forest Service in Montana spent $179 million, mostly on timber sales, in Montana but only received $4.1 million in revenue from these sales. They lost millions on logging.”

How much of the “subsidy” is spent on the additional planning to avoid lawsuits by groups like Garrity’s, and defending itself from same?

16 Comments

  1. And with that statement in mind, the FS continues to put projects on line which include cuts that have nothing to do with restoration and everything to do with timber production. They experience a loss on the timber and motivate lawsuits for a further loss. Thank god for people like Mr. Garrity who help put the brakes on. (case in point, by the way…1250 acres of roadless potential wilderness, along the Frissell trail, in the Goose Project near McKenzie Bridge Oregon)

  2. The Forest Service *should* be spending money on that so-called “additional planning” to ensure *they follow the law.* That’s what the courts are for. That’s how our democracy is structured. It’s one of the checks to ensure everyone follows the law.

    I take issue with the word “additional,” too, as if it’s not important. Those silly environmental groups, trying to make sure agencies actually follow federal laws? I don’t like the model, but this is the model we have and they are the only check to ensure agencies follow the law.

  3. There is no way to win a debate over economic returns! We have to set down with all interests an identify long range goals for the forests, not only in Montana, but throughout the forest covered lands that remain. We constantly debate and disagree on tools. techniques and economics and wind up in court arguing over the wrong issues. With the expanding impact of humans on our remaining forested lands, NATURE requires help which means proper management! The products of the forest need to be used but they must become the by-product of proper management, not the goal of management. Some how leadership must reach out to the potentially affected interests and start the dialog to establish the future goals for the area in question. This must be initiated before proposing specific projects or activities. The world population has now surpassed 7 BILLION and is increasing at the rate of 78 MILLION per year! “Preservation” will not provide an acceptable future. Management is REQUIRED, but the question is management for what! I also believe “Conservation- Wise Use” will not provide an acceptable future. Conservation focuses on what we can take from the forests, resources, not the health, vigor and diversity of the forests. We must develop the wisdom to see and understand the complexity of Nature, forests, and couple this wisdom and knowledge about forest relationships, with the significant advancements in science and technology we have made to date. This will allow us to manage our remaining forested lands in balance with “Natures Way”. We can chose the path of materialism or the path of spirituality and balance. MANAGE WE MUST! Which path will you choose?

  4. Brians’ comments take me back to the early 1990s when the Chief finally figured out that following the NEPA process was a better way to go than fighting lawsuits which we usually lost. That was the start of the NEPA training and the 1900-1 training course. The FS should not loose cases if it is doing the job right. I know that is not always the case but ….

    Many who took the course and agreed with the contents and followed the NEPA process I am betting are not the ones involved in the suits. I may be wrong as I also know that some environmental groups are against anything. and one can’t win by talking.

    I have stilll heard of the FS saying we are gathering public input but the decsion is made. We are doing this just to keep you informed. That is a agreat attitude.

    Briana is right on.

  5. The Montana state DNR timber sales makes $2.00 in revenue for every $1.00 in cost. End of that below cost debate. I’ve made the argument ad nausea about comparing Montana USFS to Colorado USFS, where MPB clearcut timber sales in the 3,000 acre range with a 70 page EA are common. (I was reading one EIS in Colorado that would produce more saw timber than the entire Lolo has sold in 10 years).

    Since I have no life, and since Guy brought it up awhile back, I was just reading the EA for the Rennic Stark project on the Lolo. What a fluff piece of pop forestry. “Sale prep and Admin” runs about $40/MBF…just the same rate as the states, but the “non-timber” sale related costs on the project are ridiculous. RX burning is 1.1 million…to reintroduce fire in a roadless area and treatment areas(9000 acres in toto). I have no problem with RX burning, but a roadless area? Who cares? Who do you think this will impress? This whole sale area burned in 1910, let’s recreate that image for the public by letting nature do it’s thang some hot summer. My favorite is $250,000 to “slash, hand pile/ burn” on 400 acres. The units that this will be implemented on were to be “non-commercial slashing of small diameter trees followed by RX burning”, but in response to public concerns…it was changed to hand piling. Hey, moneys no object when doing right…right? Another $470,000 is spent “non commercial slashing” followed by RX burning. The non-commercial “add ons” to the “timber sale” amount to almost $2,000,000…for a timber sale that thins 1800 acres and produces a pathetic 5 MMBF. Now that’s what I call a below cost timber sale. Of course “revenues” are ridiculous, because half the volume is in non-saw “biomass” LOL.

    It’s symptomatic of the Lolo. Awhile back, I briefly read the revised “proposed Lolo management plan.” I was encouraged when I read that “treated acres” would double from the ten year average. 5 seconds later I was discouraged when I read volume sold wouldn’t change. In other words, volume harvested/acre will be half. Then the plan waxed eloquent about the need to “restore old growth by thinning small diameter trees.” Hence the reason that half the wood sold on the Lolo is “non-saw” garbage. Why bother? When you are treating 1% a decade, you’re not going to save anything anyway. I’m glad you have a benefactor who can indulge your need to feel good about yourself because you are restoring the old growth.

    I’ve often argued with myself if there is a kind of instilled “cultural philosophy” difference between USFS regions. As in all the “silviculturists” go to the Rocky Mountain, and all the “ologists” go to the Northern. I don’t want to be to hard on the NR. If the Northern Region was unfettered by litigation, I’m guessing the timber harvest would double tomorrow. Certainly the cost to prepare an EIS would be halved. If I recall, a few years ago the present “administration” in the WO proposed an annual NR timber harvest of 300 MMBF…which is twice what has been accomplished. Of course, a small Rider on a spending bill “enhancing” the new 3000 acre CE in Montana, would likely get even Tester to sign on, the “mods” at the MWA, GYC, Nature Conservancy, ect. and garner editorial support while bemoaning that it “had to come to this because of a few extremists.” Collaboration is the new kumbya buzz phrase, it’s your biggest fear, and it’s here to stay, get used to it.

    • Governments find ways to finance their being through the administrative process. 30 years ago, in Region 6, there were assessed costs per thousand board feet, when placed on a per acre basis, amounted to more than 20 year old private doug fir timberland was selling for. And that was just for slash disposal, site prep, trees and planting, and monitoring success/failure. Add on the road use and road maintenance fees on top of the contract requiring the roads be “put to bed” in the condition that existed before logging, sometimes the add ons for all the deposits, K-V, etc., amounted to more than it cost to have the trees cut and put on the landing ready to load. And the road use costs and fees were more than what it actually cost to have the logs transported to a mill or log deck site. All that is about how governments work, then and today. Why does it cost $1500 per sink, $3000 per toilet, as a part of paying for a building permit? Because the powers that be have passed an ordinance to allow that to happen. I was shepherding a crew shaping the vegetation for a small housing development in Corvallis. The City demanded a meeting over that, and some issues for the roading and underground utilities. They had three city employees at the meeting. They charged the developer in excess of $200 per hour to have their people, city employees, at the meeting they demanded in their oversight. And that is why the developer told me there was no way to economically develop land, sell lots, and end up with a house that could sell for less than $450,000. The same house can be built and sold in as nice a subdivision in Houston for $300,000. Government oversight and micro management comes with costs to be borne by the purchaser. The same goes for USFS stumpage.

      When tax income is limited, fees, permits, oversight charges become the norm for governments. The USFS has never cared that their financial demands lower the return on stumpage, and the serial litigators never mention those costs have to be borne by the stumpage for a mill to “break even.”

      Lumber has a value in a world wide market. Logs have a value as they pertain to their lumber potential. Standing timber has a value as it pertains to logs delivered to an end use site. And stumpage has a value when all the associated and ancillary costs assigned to the timber by the selling agency are included in the end use valuation. The USFS determines, in a transparent lumber market and use of sophisticated digital assessment process methods, the value of the stumpage they wish to sell. If the Rockheads, et al, want a stated stumpage return, it would appear that they really ought to lobby the Chief’s Office to bring about that change, and Congress to have that change made into law. Serial litigation has not proven to be a path to a workable solution. A raison d’etre, perhaps, but not good policy nor economic advancement, societally.

  6. “Additional planning to avoid lawsuits.”

    I think that the reason laws require ‘additional’ planning (which I suppose mostly means NEPA) is to make better (more informed) decisions. (Maybe there’s some examples out there of this actually happening?)

  7. An entity that blows 179 million on overhead while only generating 5 million in revenue would be toast its first quarter. Those are innanets startup numbers, not a sustainable model at all.
    The fact is, both TRIBES and STATES somehow manage to turn a plus number from their forestry operations, as do the REITs on their core land classes. The reason the USFS fails at this same task is simple, they are trying to follow rotten laws mostly written by the post-Watergate Congresses dominated by, gee whizzzzz, yippie Democrats and college professors (Mansfield/McGovern/Metcalf).
    Laws that require more trees cut and coal burned just to make the paperwork needed to satisfy extremists like Garrity/Johnson/Kelly/Suckling et al — are bad laws.

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