A “Single Use Sustained Yield Act”?

An essay in Evergreen magazine by Barry Wynsma: The “Single Use Sustained Yield Act”: A Thoughtful Proposal.”

“I believe there is a better way to free the shackles of the Forest Service foresters and allow them to get busy managing a portion of our National Forests. I’d like to propose that Congress enact a new environmental law titled the “Single Use Sustained Yield” Act. “SUSY,” for short.

“SUSY” would designate 25 per cent of every National Forest for sustained yield timber management. These areas would be exempt from the project level NEPA process, and exempt from Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Forest Management Act (NFMA) sensitive species considerations including critical habitat designations. The lands would be managed solely for sustained yield timber production, meaning harvest would never exceed annual growth.”

11 Comments

  1. You have to be kidding. There used to be a large private segment of forest lands in private ownership. Many of these acres were sold off to maximize short-term returns rather than holding these assets for long-term timber returns.

    Holding companies who purchased these private lands, then liquidated the standing volume and re-sold these lands to third parties as net-operating losses — to reduce corporate income taxes.

    Now they want the public to give them 25% of our public lands with a no holds barred license to exploit/utilize these lands. I do not think so.

    • Barry did not proposed removing these lands from national forest status. He only proposed that the Forest Service manage them in a different (and, imho, a more productive and rational way.

  2. I like the concept. But why a “one size fits all” 25% ? Why not select the land whose highest and best use is commodity (timber) production and use that land for the purpose for which is best suited. This would vary immensely by forests and the selection process would not be as difficult as one might think. An interdisciplinary group (I was a member) did exactly that for the Ocala N.F. back in 1972. We came up with ~ 47% of that forest with timber as the featured resource.

    Further, the term “suitable for timber management” is a misnomer. A more accurate term would be “suitable for regulated timber management. The category includes lands that are truly unsuitable (steep slopes, unstable soils) and other lands on which timber may be harvested to benefit other resources but the volume is not charged against the ASQ. Additionally, some lands were classed as unsuitable for political reasons, for example the 80,100 acres of bottomland hardwood on the Apalachicola NF most of which are perfectly suitable for managed timber production. (The Delta N.F. is Mississippi is entirely bottomland and is so managed).

    • Mac, 25% is a ballpark figure, It might be (ought to be) different on every National Forest. In the PNW’s spotted owl country, about 17% of federal lands is classified as Matrix, where timber harvesting is allowed. It would be interesting to have a detailed analysis of those lands — economic, environmental, social — if managed under a “single-use” policy.

  3. In the words of Senator Sam Nunn, “that dog won’t hunt.”

    The issue is not about +/- 25% being appropriate to this or that National Forest, or, that the lands are still retained as National Forests. This agenda is at best a de-facto give-away of National Forest Lands to be managed like private lands. More importantly to insulate management from public participation, public disclosure of management decisions and devoid of any remedies when uses/harms are under dispute.

    The only rationale for zoning is to divide the forest for the extremes. Unbridled development versus preservation. If that is the agenda my bet is that a majority of Americans will opt to protect their forests as parks, preserves, national monuments and recreational areas. Sound to me like the last battle is already on.

    • We’ve already “divided the land” to accommodate one extreme, wilderness, where a single use providing a non-essential “commodity” and serving a limited constituency has met with widespread approval. Seems like it would be a fair and reasonable to allocate land for a use that provides basic needs (lumber, paper, energy, jobs, community and family stability, K-12 education thru the 25% funding, and local government solvency), for a vastly larger constituency.

  4. We’ve already tried maximizing timber production on public lands. The public overwhelming said “No thanks!”

    Second, most private forest lands are already dedicated to this purpose.

    We need public lands to stay in public hands so they can provide clean water, boodiversity, climate benefits, recreation, quality of life. Industrial forestry fails at all these things.

    People need to realize that because of externalities, timber will tend to be under-priced and over-produced while all the public values will be under-produced. The publics reaction to logging public lands reflects this.

    • Of course, I am against clearcutting 25% of Forest Service lands but, I really doubt that is the proposal. I do agree that most protections should not be dropped in favor of timber production. I’m still convinced that we should use site-specific science to manage that particular piece of ground, and that includes protecting endangered habitats from complete loss. I’m more in favor of an “All Lands” approach, where treatments that make ecological and economical sense can proceed without litigation and “eco-meddling”. We need more opportunities to earn trust, instead of demanding it.

  5. Larry, I really like that line of yours: “We need more opportunities to earn trust, instead of demanding it.” Worth thinking about. I say that USFS has done a lot to earn back the trust that was lost in decades past. I don’t think the agency is demanding it, but is frustrated that regaining it is taking so long.

  6. Even the 17% of forest land that is matrix is not really managed for timber production, especially if it contains any larger or older trees. Seem like it comes under the same rules as the reserves. The non profit environmental corporations control through lawsuits what goes on in our public forests. They use current environmental laws and say this is what the public wants when it really their agenda and not necessarily the general publics.
    It would be great if we were really protecting our forests but we are not. I like it when 2nd law notes something like we have 20% of our old growth left. I think we are probably burning up 1% of old growth forests a year, at a cost of billions of dollars, so in 20 years even without ever logging a stick of old growth most of it will be almost gone anyways.
    We need to take the whole picture approach to forest management. The two extremes we are dealing with in the way we manage our forests is not looking good for the future. Trees harvesting can be done in just about any area without harming the environment. Tree harvesting can be done in a way that can actually be good for the forest and good for people who like to build things with wood.

  7. “And remember that the areas currently designated as suitable timber stands have already gone through extensive public comment and the NEPA process with the issuance of the new IPNF Forest Plan.”

    I think there might be a chance for some agreement that lands designated as suitable for timber production in a forest plan should available for timber production – IF the nature of ‘timber production’ is properly disclosed and evaluated as ‘single-use’ in the planning process. If the public were told during forest planning that this was their only chance to influence what happens on those lands, I’d expect there to be fewer suitable acres. A fair trade?

    (The definition of ‘timber production in the Planning Rule is, “The purposeful growing, tending, harvesting, and regeneration of regulated crops of trees …” )

    As soon as you start talking about multiple-use instead of single-use on a site, you necessarily have to start talking about uncertainty regarding the amount and timing of timber production. This is difficult to reconcile with the concept of regulated forests and suitable acres (and economic stability). Timber projections then become ‘hopes,’ and then disappointment when they are not achieved. Maybe it would make sense to make a stronger distinction between tree farms and multiple-use lands and their associated timber volumes in the planning process. This might allow for more certainty associated with outputs from the single-use lands.

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