“A year’s worth of wood in litigation” in Region 1

Here are some numbers on the amount of timber under litigation. According to this article:

Timber sales spike in the Bighorns

Timber isn’t a big industry in the Bighorn Mountains, but timber sales in the area have spiked in numbers not seen since the housing market crashed in 2008. Litigation over timber sales in Montana coupled with widespread devastation from the mountain pine beetle have sent Montana logging companies south to the Bighorns.”

Evidence points to litigation over timber sales in Montana’s federal forests tying up timber companies. While companies like R-Y Timber Inc. estimate that as much as 40 percent of timber sales are under litigation right now in Montana, the U.S. Forest Service claims it’s actually less than 30 percent at any given time.

“We have a year’s worth of wood in litigation right now,” said Tom Martin, supervisor of timber management for the Forest Service for the Northern Region that encompasses Montana.

In Montana, 23 percent of current timber sales in the national forests are under appeal, encumbering contractors from harvesting those trees, said Elizabeth Slown, spokesperson for the Northern Region. Most of the litigation centers around Montana’s grizzly and lynx habitat.

10 thoughts on ““A year’s worth of wood in litigation” in Region 1”

  1. Are those percentages actually percent of timber sales “held up in litigation” (as the article implies), or percentages of the actual acreage that is proposed for sales? Seems like those could be quite different, since timber sales may vary greatly in size…

  2. Whether acres or number of sales, these are shocking figures that suggest the enormous impact that activist’s litigation, that can be based on any one of the 93 conflicting laws governing federal timber sales, is having on forest dependent workers, families, communities, local governments and school districts. To these folks a bear in the woods is far more valuable that a child in the classroom.

    For a glimpse of what this “People don’t count” mindset has done to the children of one rural county in Florida, take a look at this webpage. http://www.wvmcconnell.net/?page_id=718.

    Read it and weep.

  3. From the article: The year 2008 brought about the Great Recession, something that the nation hasn’t fully climbed out of yet. It also caused the housing market to crash. Timber sale prices, once at $20 per cubic foot, or $10 per board feet in 2006, fell to only a dollar in 2010, according to Matt Etzenhouser, regional stewardship contracting manager for the Forest Service Region 2, which encompasses much of Wyoming. Harvesting timber no longer became profitable.”

    Easier to blame “activists” who are trying to trying to stop USFS from breaking the law on public lands. The “public” part usually gets overlooked by corporate welfare recipients like R-Y Timber, whose “mills fell short once they logged all their own land.”

    The reference to “93 conflicting laws governing federal timber sales” is an interesting statistic, is that anything more than anecdotal? (i.e., is there a reference for that anywhere, that we could look at?)

    Mac’s “People don’t count” blog is also illuminating, it’s about public impacts of USFS poor management “in the west” (Florida? close enough). The only litigation mentioned involved the public suing USFS for not using appropriate science in its management of a publicly-owned forest. That sounds familiar somehow… I guess litigation is fine if you happen to agree with the plaintiffs’ perspective, but otherwise it’s “frivolous”.

    • Guy,
      Here’s the source for the statistic on laws affecting the operations of the U.S. Forest Service http://www.fs.fed.us/publications/laws/selected-laws.pdf

      and here’s a quote from the Preface to that 810 page document listing 93 laws:

      “The Selected Laws Affecting Forest Service Activities
      is the fourth in a series of reference guides published by the United States Derparment of Agriculture Forest Service. It was created to assist agency staff, and members of the public, as a ready reference document and to understand the legal authorities and limitations of the agency. The first principal laws publication was published in 1978, the second in 1983, and the third in 1993. Although it was originally intended to be a portable reference, the continuous addition of new laws greatly increased the size of the guide. During the development of this document, scoping revealed that many believed the guide had become too cumbersome to be useful as anything other than a desk reference. The guide’s content, use, and format were evaluated, and it was determined that an abridged version should be prepared. This abridged version does not contain all of the laws relating to the
      USDA Forest Service. This version does contain the current major laws that
      apply to USDA Forest Service activities.”

      The summary, reading which will make your eyes glaze over, contains enough material to give activist lawyers grist for their litigation mill for decades to come.

      Guy you are right in that my webpage focuses on the “People don’t count” mindset of the U.S. Forest Service. However, the impacts are the same whether the failure to manage is triggered by the Agency’s failure to properly interpret and implement the Congress’s conflicting welter of laws or by the ecophile’s zealous pursuit of “nature’s way” through relentless appeals and litigation. In either case people suffer.

      • Thanks, interesting reference. Though a USFS violation of the law doesn’t necessarily make it possible for citizens to sue based on that law, there are only certain circumstances where that’s allowed. Most citizen suits related to USFS activities fall under APA or ESA violations, sometimes also CWA. NEPA violations have to fit under the APA umbrella (and NFMA under those, basically). They’re not all that complicated, it’s unlikely that most USFS law violations are the result of confusion about conflicting laws (they do have attorneys on staff, after all).

        • “They’re not all that complicated.” Oh, if only that were true!

          National Forests, where the action takes place, don’t have attorneys on their staff, and if they did, they’d still have to reconcile which of several conflicting district court decisions to use in deciding what action is “legal” Be especially careful if you’re in the 9th District!.

  4. Wait till the farmers run out of food that meets the no litigation standards, and importing food become critical for some markets. Who do you blame then?

    The NGO as a parallel quasi government bureaucracy existing on tax deductible money, mandatory trust and foundation “giving”, and idealism, undermines our democracy and the intent of the Constitution to have three branches of government. We have, now, at least four.

    Private lands are not only being stripped of timber, but they are also the only dependable supply, and the harvest can only reflect the annual growth of trees to harvestable size and profitability. In Oregon, the private land harvest off industrial timberland is a straight line on the graph since 1980. a small variability in harvest annually for what is now, the approaching full second growth cutting cycle since the end of “virgin” timber. And downfall in supply is due to the inability of the Feds, and now States, to offer timber for sale. The “small woodlands” owners have a much more varied harvest record, because they a) don’t have any mill of their own to feed. b) have ownership costs that need servicing on a regular basis, thus they cut only a small amount to pay those costs and not incur a tax liability of any amount, and c) seem to cut more in good markets, in which export log values boost domestic log values, which reflects the “corner on the log market” de facto situation that now exists with megamills cutting their own timber growth and offering log prices that will raise profits as substitutes for fee simple from their plantations. A little under half of all private timberland in Oregon is “small woodlands”, and those acres are not being cut for myriad reasons. There will become a time when owning them and not cutting will cause them to lose preferential tax allowances. No cutting means no jobs, and there is no reason for those lands to not bear a fair share of the tax burden, which is not now the case.

    A government is either a Hong Kong, a middle man center of trade, or it has to exist somewhat on what its land might produce as grown or harvested natural resources. New money begins with growth from sun, water and earth or sea. Unless, of course, you believe that the Treasury printing new money is economic growth and real value. Like stealing vodka from Dad’s bottle and replacing it with water. There will be a sure and definitive end to that practice. The US has to use it public resources or become dependent upon other’s. It is a public decision. Neither forests nor cottage cheese last forever in sequestration, storage, nor gain from no use.

  5. File this under “For Whatever It’s Worth”….

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Matthew Koehler
    Sent: Monday, November 03, 2014 9:54 AM
    To: Martin, Thomas H -FS
    Subject: “We have a years worth of wood in litigation right now”

    Hello Tom:

    I just left you a phone message too. Can you please give me a call to discuss some of the information you presented in this article?


    Specially, could you please provide me with documentation to support your quote: “We have a year’s worth of wood in litigation right now.”

    I assume you have a spread sheet with the names of timber sales, National Forests, etc. Please send that to me at [email protected].

    Matthew Koehler

    Tom Martin wrote me back today and said he was presently out of the office, but upon his return next week he will contact me on this matter.

    Of course, it goes without saying that I’ll gladly post any information that Tom and the U.S. Forest Service provides. As I said above, one has to assume the USFS has a spread sheet with the names of timber sales, National Forests, etc.

    I continue to believe that the USFS should – just as a matter of standard procedure – produce this type of information quarterly and make it easily available to the public.


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