If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps the ones above and below will help tell the story of the timber industry in Montana, the dramatical liquidation of old-growth forests and the subsequent changes – and challenges – to National Forest management, especially in the context of the timber industry’s quest for more public lands logging, less public oversight and fewer pesky environmental laws and regulations to follow. But hey, we can always just continue to blame environmental groups for all the timber industry’s problems, right?
Below is some more timber industry ‘truth telling’ from the Missoulian’s big timber industry series. Here’s the full article.
1993 was also the year Champion completed its “accelerated old-growth liquidation” strategy. Over the previous 20 years, Champion had tripled its harvest. Much of that took place in the mountains around Primm Meadow.
“That’s why Champion divested,” explained Peter Kolb, Montana State University extension forester. “They said they’re going to convert value on the land that’s not producing a rate of return that’s fair. Once we’ve liquidated that investment, the remaining land has a rate of return that doesn’t meet our business model. They over-harvested their own lands, or from a business perspective, converted it to money for the company.”
The companies then turned to the Forest Service, seeking access to federal timberlands. University of Montana forest economist Alan McQuillan recalled Corrick announcing that Champion needed to buy 60 percent of the Forest Service’s available Montana timber after 1992 or the company wouldn’t be here to stay.
Congress also began receiving reports of “phantom forests” of greatly exaggerated tree inventories and underestimated costs of timber sale preparation and road construction. A General Accounting Office study in 1994 found the Forest Service failed to consider factors like wildlife habitat, sensitive plant species, or recreation in estimating its available timber production area. In one example, the study reported that between 1991 and 1993, costs of preparing timber sales on the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon climbed 147 percent.
But by then, the agency had plunged into its own rethinking of its mission. After selling around 12 billion board-feet of timber a year in the 1980s nationally, the Forest Service reduced its Allowable Sale Quantity, or ASQ, to about one-third that amount by 1993.
Locally, forest supervisors were also cranking back the spigot of federal timber. Lolo National Forest Supervisor Orville Daniels whacked his ASQ from 120 million board-feet to 50 million.