USFS Timber Targets 2019 and Beyond

Interesting item from the American Forest Resource Council‘s Nov. 2019 newsletter. This line drew my attention:

The Forest Service is developing a “market based” approach to timber sale appraisals that will aim to improve alignment between local market conditions and appraisal metrics.

I assumed that they’d been doing this all along. Anyone have insights?

Federal Timber Purchasers Committee Meeting
Last month the Federal Timber Purchasers Committee (FTPC) met in Alexandria, Louisiana with Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management leadership from around the country. The committee meets with agency personnel twice a year to discuss issues pertinent to the timber sale program. The meeting covered topics such as timber sale appraisals, updates to Forest Service manuals and handbooks, and product utilization standards.

The Forest Service had initially established a timber target of 3.7 billion board feet (BBF) for Fiscal Year 2019. That level was assigned to the Regions and then reduced by the Chief of the Forest Service in May to 3.3 BBF for reasons including, but not limited to, the government shutdown, the impact of not receiving the 2018 fire repayment, and delays in hiring new staff. However, the agency target, assigned by the Department of Agriculture, remained at 3.7 BBF. The Regions sold 3.26 BBF, attaining 99% of the adjusted target. The agency as a whole attained 88% of its assigned target. Forest Service leadership emphasized the need to grow in 2020 and anticipates establishing a timber target of 3.7 BBF with a goal of hitting 4.0 BBF in 2021.

These ambitions for growth will likely be augmented by ongoing Forest Service efforts including Forest Products Modernization (FPM), Environmental Analysis and Decision Making (EADM), and Shared Stewardship. Through FPM the Forest Service is developing a “market based” approach to timber sale appraisals that will aim to improve alignment between local market conditions and appraisal metrics. There was general agreement and recognition among all participants that demand for federal timber products remains high and that improvements to the agency’s appraisal practices will help ensure that all economical sales with useful products will sell. Coupled with this effort were recommendations that Regions and Forests improve their access to up-to-date information on product utilization specifications to ensure alignment with local industry standards. Revisions and updates to Forest Service Manuals and Handbooks are ongoing and solicitation for public comment is anticipated to begin this calendar year. Updates on items ranging from timber cruising to stewardship contracting will be rolled out in batches over a six-month period.

Efforts to supplement the agency’s capacity for growth through outside partnerships, generally referred to as Shared Stewardship, were recognized as an integral component of expanding active management. There are currently 10 Shared Stewardship Agreements signed across the country and an additional 10 in progress. Partnering with entities such as State governments and Tribes continues to be a national priority. Forest Service leadership emphasized not just the importance of establishing these agreements but also developing clear metrics that can be used to gauge their effectiveness to further the agency’s mission.

7 thoughts on “USFS Timber Targets 2019 and Beyond”

  1. “ There was general agreement and recognition among all participants that demand for federal timber products remains high and that improvements to the agency’s appraisal practices will help ensure that all economical sales with useful products will sell”.

    Thanks Steve,
    The collaboration pattern:
    Assemble (by invitation and/or self selection only) ANY grouping of financially conflicted steakholders to dine at ANY roundtable serving up ANY unjust desserts of the Public commonwealth made irresistible to private partiers by Public subsidies and it should come as no surprise there’s “ agreement and recognition among all participants ” that it’s a very fine mealticket that needs to occur more regularly.”

    The agency “mission“ pattern:
    Centrally planned economic policy (yes the same one that brought the Soviet Union down) but this time in full disregard of an internationally recognized climate emergency; and like the Russians, in full disregard of market realities— the same market realities that even Canadian timber producers are currently shutting down their production lines…

    The irony of Trump’s idiocy and MSM’s Russophobic/sinophobic sycophancy now being at the center of our perilously imminent economic collapse is the stuff of standup comics’ dreams come true.

    The problem is, these two examples in pattern recognition aren’t very funny.

    Reply
  2. I really don’t know, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the Manual and Handbook were written in times that folks were really different from today. When trees always had value, and purchasers were known and local.
    So it could be that there are Manual and Handbook requirements that aren’t set up for today’s conditions.

    Reply
    • That is certainly part of it. And there are efforts to revise a lot of the manuals and handbooks right now to better reflect the current timber program that includes (for want of a better word) a lot of “biomass” or “low value wood” and not as much “sawtimber” as in the past. This could result in lower minimum bids, reduced income to the US treasury (and to things like KV and Salvage Sale Fund), and more opportunity to make a profit to the purchaser. The level of “no bid” sales in the Forest Service was very high last year, and not just for fire salvage sales. Lots of green sales went no bid as well. The reasons are varied…and present an interesting chapter in the “increase the timber target” story – the amount of wood offered for sale has increased, but not all of that wood could be sold. “…all economical sales with useful products will sell…”

      Reply
  3. Since one of the ways more timber would sell would be to lower the price, which is based on the appraisal, is there any reason to suspect that changing the appraisal process to provide “alignment between local market conditions and appraisal metrics” is really going to mean a federal subsidy for logging national forests? This has the feeling of changing the process because somebody didn’t like the answer it gave.

    Reply
    • Hmmm..”federal subsidy for logging national forests”… or “being able to sell some of the trees you are removing for fuels reduction or restoration”. Wouldn’t that depend on a review of a specific silvicultural prescription in a specific place?
      But what is a “federal subsidy”? Is it providing free recreation or “below-cost” permits to scout camps, or perhaps ski area permits should be auctioned off every 10 years? It would be interesting to imagine what National Forests with no federal subsidies would look like.

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      • It’s charging $1.35/AUM. It’s based on some rationale that made sense to somebody, but it is not a “market” rate. It’s not hard to imagine some rationale for timber prices that would make sense to the Forest Service if it sold more trees. (I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that a subsidy for public land use would be unusual.)

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