Musings on the Forest Service Cut and Sold Report

Here’s a guest post from Derek Weidensee, which started as a comment here in a previous thread, but the whole idea of what’s in the cut and sold report, and what it means, I think is worth its own post and discussion.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 USFS “cut and sold” report has just came out. The nine forests in Montana have sold the least amount of timber since 2007, and 40% less than 2009. When one looks back 10 years, one can see an inverse curve between “timber sold” in Montana and “money raised” by the Alliance of Wild Rockies. In 2007, when only 109 Million board foot was sold (MMBF), the AWR raised $255,000. The Wildwest Institute raised $136,000. There was much litigation then wasn’t there. In 2009, the AWR budget dropped to $83,000 (barely enough to cover Garrity’s salary) and the WWI to $33,000. In 2010, because of a “gift” from Carole King, the AWR budget bounced up to $380,000. Now here’s some research for you. Graph this one out. How many lawsuits were filed in the last few years, or more importantly, how many MMBF is currently litigated. How much of the 40% decline in volume is attributed to litigation? Why can’t the USFS tell us that? They know, and they could, but why wait for the Missoulian to get around to asking them. You can argue that it’s all about following the law, but who could be opposed to the public’s right to know. Let’s stop the dance here, we all know the litigation is all about soaking up person hours so less timber can be cut with the available budget, and with holding timber supplies in the hope some more mills will close. A tactic that has worked quite well in the past 30 years.
Here’s a few more fun “stat’s” from the cut and sold. Out of the 122 MMBF “sold” 25% was personal use firewood. Of the “commercial” timber, only 38%(47MMBF) of the 122 was “sawtimber” and 35%(43MMBF) “non-sawtimber,” in other words, trees less than 9″ DBH(there’s your hazard road timber sales). The mills can cut down to a 7″ DBH. In 2007, 70% was “sawtimber”. That means that in 2007 75 MMBF was sawtimber while in 2012 only 47MMBF was.
–Meanwhile,the Ouachita in Arkansas sold 90MMBF of which 65MMBF was sawtimber. One forest in the east sold more sawtimber than all nine in Montana.
–The three NF’s in Michigan sold 150 MMBF. Three million acres in Michagan sold more than 20 some million in Montana. Guess there ain’t much litigation in Michigan.
—The White Mountain NF in New Hampshire, barely 100 miles from Boston, sold as much timber as the Bitteroot in Montana.
—Colorado sold 105 MMBF, almost as much as Montana, when it has one mill just out of bankruptcy and another opening soon, while Montana has what, 7 mills of comparable size.
—The two one million acre forests in Minnesota sold 105 MMBF.
Keep in mind, that the above forests sell very little “personal use firewood”.
The whole Northern Region sold 206 MMBF. If the Obama administration wants to sell 350 MMBF as Tidwell talked of, they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Matthew, feel free to repost your comments on this on this thread.
Here’s the link to the Cut and Sold report.

12 thoughts on “Musings on the Forest Service Cut and Sold Report”

  1. According to the Cut and Sold reports, here’s the information for Region One over the past five years:

    • FY 2012 Region One sold 208.3 MMBF, cut 219.4 MMBF.

    • FY 2011 Region One sold 211.9 MMBF, cut 202.0 MMBF.

    • FY 2010 Region One sold 253.4 MMBF, cut 188.7 MMBF.

    • FY 2009 Region One sold 292.9 MMBF, cut 186.0 MMBF.

    • FY 2008 Region One sold 229.2 MMBF, cut 167.4 MMBF.

    While the volume of timber sold has gone down slightly, the volume of timber cut in Region One has actually gone up from FY 2008 to FY 2012.

    One has to wonder if the world’s greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, which basically started in 2007/8 and has continued and evolved clear through as we approach 2013, has had any impact on the volume of timber cut and sold? Does one believe that perhaps the wood products industry and the construction industry has been impacted in some way or another by the continuing economic crisis? For example, how does new home construction during the period 2008 to 2012 compare with new home construction during the period 2000 to 2007? By some accounts, new home construction in the US has been down by as much as 70%.

    Also, in regards to lawsuits, the two national forests I’m most familiar with (Lolo and Bitterroot) look something like this:

    During the period FY 2005 to FY 2010 the Lolo National Forest had 99 active timber sales. Furthermore, over the past six years the Lolo National Forest has had exactly one timber sale lawsuit.

    Basically the same situation on the Bitterroot National Forest, which hasn’t had a timber sale lawsuit in over six years time while there have been dozens of active timber sales on the BNF.

    • Matt, perhaps you can dig up how many of those projects (that produced the 99 sales) were appealed, by whom, and what if anything was negotiated away in the appeal resolution.

      No need to flip it back to me. It would mean more if you came up with the info.

        • JZ: The link you provided does give a good window into appeals on the Lolo National Forest from 2005 until 2012. Here is what I found:

          From January 2005 until today (an 8 year span) a total of 6 timber sales were appealed. One of these was appealed by an individual, two were appealed by WildWest Institute, two by the Alliance for Wild Rockies and one by the Ecology Center.

          Here’s some other interesting info:

          Of the 12 total appeals on the Lolo National Forest since 2005, 7 of those appeals were filed by individuals (4 appeals over family recreation residents, 1 appeal over a grazing allotment and 1 appeal of a timber sale).

          Timber Sale Appeals – Lolo National Forest

          2005 – no appeals

          2006 – Fishtrap SEIS (Ecology Center)
          Frenchtown Face (WildWest – Reversed in whole)
          Hidden Lakes (WildWest)

          2007 – no appeals

          2008 – no timber sale appeals, but one appeal from individual citizen on Lolo NF forestwide weed mang’t analysis

          2009 – Butte Lookout (Alliance for Wild Rockies)
          Chippy Fire Salvage (Richard Artley – Individual)

          2010 – No timber sale appeals. However, 4 appeals filed by individual families over their Lolo NF recreation residence and one appeal filed by individual over a grazing allotment

          2011 – Colt Summit (Alliance for Wild Rockies, et al – Reversed in Part)

          2012 – no appeals


          I’ll let these numbers speak for themselves and let other people come up with their own conclusion about what these actual appeal numbers mean. However, I will say myself that these factual appeal numbers – combined with the fact that during the period FY 2005 to FY 2010 the Lolo National Forest had 99 active timber sales and over the past six years the Lolo National Forest has had exactly one timber sale lawsuit – make me think that some of the storyline we hear in the media, from politicians and from the timber industry and their supporters (including the ‘collaborators’ at places like Montana Wilderness Association) is more hot air than an accurate picture, at least as the Lolo NF is concerned.

          • Matt,

            Yes, that link is a very good window into appeals here in R1. It should be mandatory reading for anyone involved here on NCFP (adjusted of course for the reader’s area/region of influence) to get a better understanding of what the points of contention actually are.

            For my own edification, can you please cite your source when you say the Lolo had 99 timber sales from FY 05 to FY 10. That’s 16.5 timber sales per year….seems like an awful lot, but I’m not up on things over there. Could any of that have been firewood or post/pole or otherwise less controversial “sales” than the “massive logging projects” we see as a storyline in eco-groups (non-collaborators, mind you).

            According to that math, investing in logging equipment might not be a bad thing to do in western MT. Also, where on earth did the Lolo come up with the funding to pay for timber sale administrators to cover 16.5 sales per year???

            • JZ, You’ve missed an important word in what I wrote: “Active.”

              What I wrote was “During the period FY 2005 to FY 2010 the Lolo National Forest had 99 active timber sales.”

              Some of these timber sale CE, EA and EIS decision notices were signed prior to FY 2005. For example, a timber sale EIS signed in FY 2003 may have still been active in FY 2005 or FY 2006. That’s what those numbers refer to.

              This figure came directly from a report done by Chelsea Pennick McIver (who comments here from time to time) through the UM College of Forestry and Conservation and UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

              Actually the figure of 99 ACTIVE timber sales on the Lolo NF FY 2005 to FY 2010 was in a draft version of the report and then was removed in the final report since they decided to only look at timber sales SOLD between FY 2005 and 2010 on the Lolo NF. I still have a copy of that draft report, but am pretty sure the BBER folks wouldn’t appreciate the draft posted.

              However, again, thanks JZ for posting that link. The figures from the Lolo and Bitterroot NF sure don’t seem to support the often-claimed notion that 1) every single timber sale is appealed and 2) that enviro groups are the only ones using the public appeals process. Seems like individual citizens file appeals too.

              • Matthew, I’m sure you are familiar with 215 and 251 appeals. They are not the same breed of cat. I think it would be fairer to ask of all 215 appeals of vegetation management projects, and travel management projects, and allotment management and sort it out that way.

                PS many of us on the blog aren’t aware of intra-Montana intrigue; if you could be more direct on why you think BBER wouldn’t want the draft posted, that would be helpful.

                • Sharon, this has nothing to do with “intra-Montana intrigue.” I simply was given a draft version of a report by BBER and also the final report, which replaced active timber sales during the period with sold timber sales during the period. I suggest you contact Chelsea or BBER and ask them why they changed that aspect of the report. I’m sure they had a good reason for it.

        • JZ: Here’s the info about Bitterroot National Forest appeals from that same link. As with the Lolo NF info, this covers the timber period Jan 2005 to the present. 9 total appeals were filed during that 8 year period, 5 on timber sales, 1 on prescribed fire, two on Wilderness dam repair and 1 on recreation residence.

          Bitterroot National Forest Appeals

          2005 – No appeals

          2006 – Lil Lyman Salvage (WildWest)
          Lost Trail Salvage (WildWest)
          Skalkaho Salvage (WildWest)

          2007 – Gash Salvage (WildWest)
          Guide 311 Rx Burn (Floyd Wood, Individual)
          Nordic Skiing Proposal (Bitterroot Trails LLC)

          2008 – No Appeals

          2009 – No Appeals

          2010 – Dean Recreation Residence (Jon Dean, Individual)
          – Tim Cup Lake Dam Access (Friend of Clearwater)

          2011 – Fred Burr High Lake Dam Access (Wilderness Watch)

          2012 – Lary Bass Project (Dick Artley, individual)

  2. There are lots of problems construing litigation as a direct cause of changes in timber harvests in any particular forest, or imputing any particular cause. Using simple descriptive statistics such as are presented here doesn’t come anywhere close to creating a reasonable inference and no respectable scientific journal would accept a paper based on this data and the conclusion reached.
    I appreciate the attempt to make a link, but any conclusion represented here is very weak and indicates a high potential for confirmation bias (i.e., i think awr is a cause of lower timber harvest, therefore the data indicates awr is the cause).

  3. Oh if only life were that simple! Here’s a page from the Powerpoint linked to my webpage
    WHY has the National Forest timber harvest declined?

    What are the causes for the virtual non-management, of the timber resource on the Nation’s single largest forest-land ownership? They are many and their relative importance has been debated. Here are some frequently advanced reasons for the existing management gridlock :

     Inadequate funding.
     Unending protests, appeals, and litigation by special interests with narrowly-focused agendas – resulting in varying judicial interpretations (Sept 2012. FS has 183 active lawsuits and 32 appeals)
     Shifting priorities by the Public and by the Executive Branch.
     Excessive, conflicting direction(2004: F.S. has 93 governing laws plus
    an unknown number of executive orders and directives).
     Excessive Planning and Environmental Analyses
     Diversion of resource funds to fire control.

    Whatever the cause, I think we can all agree that the results are a disaster and the future for our National Forests and the communities that depend on them is bleak indeed. It seems certain that the situation will continue to deteriorate as long the lands remain in federal ownership, the Forest Service harvests 6% of the gross annual growth on N.F. timberlands, and the Congress remains impotent. The website suggests a solution.

  4. Matt called me on the “cut” part of the Cut and Sold, and it was wrong of me to not consider how much the economy had to do with the 40% reduction in “sold.” I only lie to myself. In 2009 we lost a couple good size mills and Smurfitt Stone, which explains the descrepancy between the 186 MMBF cut and the 292 MMBF “sold” in 2009. I’m sure many million board foot went into default, but then, couldn’t it have been sold again? If the USFS managed to sell 290 MMBF in 2009, why couldn’t it “offer” that much again(whatever happened to the “offer” catagory that used to float around out there-how much the USFS “offers” would be the best indictor of how much it can produce).

    I don’t think the USFS is selling only what the market demands. For the last 3 fiscal years, the mills have cut the same amount of sawtimber as was sold. With the closing of Smurfitt in Jan. 2010, it’s not surprising harvest of “non-sawtimber” went down in 2010, but the mills are harvesting all of it that’s offered. Non-sawtimber is junk…basically pulp was the domain of Smurfitt Stone…it sells for a fraction of saw-timber…it used to be the stuff the contractor could elect to remove for $2.00 MBF, and now it’s gettin bid up. You can skin a two x four out of a 7″ DBH tree, but I think it’s a good indicator of how much demand there is for USFS timber when the Sawmills, not pulp mills, are cutting all they can get to make boards. The Mills are buyin all the USFS is selling, and the high stumpage price is another good indicator of demand. Finally, I’ll take the word of the mill owners who say they could take a lot more USFS timber. I know of these guys haulin wood from 300 miles one way to get timber. There is a “headrig capacity” of 350 MMBF in Montana, and the USFS manages to crank out 50MMBF of Sawtimber. The State of Montana DNRC sells 50 MMBF of sawtimber per year, and what do they own (without me diggin through my notes), 5% of the forested acreage?

    According to a recent story in the Missoulian, there are currently 10 timber sale lawsuits on the Northern Region. Here’s a link (I can’t remember if I read it on this blog or not), it also references the 350 MMBF the Obama administration would like to cut, which, by the way, would be about 50% of the 80’s harvest.

    Now, I’ve read a lot of Montana EIS’s and EA’s, and these “projects” average around 9 MMBF of timber(way to small-but that’s another story). The Bozeman Municipal Watershed is 12 MMBF, the Colt Summit is only 7 MMBF. So I’m gonna say around 80-90 MMBF are tied up in litigation right now. To reinforce my point in the original post, the point is “we don’t know” how much cause the USFS won’t tell us. Now, I’d love to know how much was tied up in litigation in 2009…whether it would have sold or not. I think a lot of people made bad business decisions buying that wood then, but it was for sale wasn’t it.


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