Thanks (or maybe not) to Steve Wilent for sending me down the curious Timber Data trail with his post on the three letters on Montana timber sales here. He simply asked “does anyone know the facts?”. I thought naively, “how hard could it be to get no-bid and sale data from the Forest Service? After all, the latter is all to be found in cut and sold reports, right?
With regard to the Garrity letter, there were two specific claims of interest, one about no-bid, and one about the percentage increase in timber volume sold. This all can be very confusing, so I tried my best to dig down into it.
Here’s Garrity’s original paragraph:
In fact, the “supply” from national forests is more than just good. Last year the Forest Service received no bids on 17.5% of the timber it offered, up from 15.6% that received no bids in 2018. That’s 615 million board feet that weren’t cut in 2019 because the timber industry did not bid on it. The truth is that Region 1 of the Forest Service, which includes Montana, has increased the amount of timber offered by 141% in the last 10 years and the cost to taxpayers continues to climb to staggering heights.
The way the Garrity letter is written, it was unclear (to me and some others) that Garrity was talking about national no-bid figures and regional offer figures. I currently have an information request in with the WO.
And here is the post about Region 1’s no-bid sales.
Going on to Garrity’s second claim.
“The truth is that Region 1 of the Forest Service, which includes Montana, has increased the amount of timber offered by 141% in the last 10 years and the cost to taxpayers continues to climb to staggering heights.”
Garrity is talking about timber offered. Region 1 provided info about timber sold in their reply.
Looking at the data, we sold 161% more volume in 2019 (409.2 million board feet) vs. 2010 (253.4 million board feet). Comparing one specific year to another is seldom informative in my view as each year can fluctuate for any number of reasons (market factors, litigation, budgets, targets, fire seasons, etc).
What’s more helpful is trends. Over the past 20 years, and by extension the previous 10, the amount of volume sold annually in the Region has increased incrementally. This is one of many indicators of the efforts underway, and success being achieved, in the Agency and Region to increase the pace and scale of restoration efforts to address wildfire risk, forest health, and other vegetation objectives. If the reasons for no bids was due to lack of capacity or demand from mills, you would expect to see an increase in volume going no bid as the amount sold increases. Clearly in the other set of data provided, this is not the case.
Another interesting thing is how Garrity and Region 1 both talk about increases, e.g. “161% more volume”. In the case of the 2010 and 2019 numbers, I’d tend to subtract 253.4 from 409.2 and say they had a 61% increase in volume from 2010.
Now, looking at the actual data from R-1 is interesting, and despite my pleas, I could find no volunteers willing to help me pluck the right numbers out of Excel for a graph. Hereis the spreadsheet as is.
Here are the numbers for Region 1 from their spreadsheet of MMBF sold:
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
189.0 177.3 242.3 143.3 205.9 265.5 193.8 171.0 229.2 293.1 253.4 212.0 206.3 169.3 276.7 310.7 259.0 340.6 355.6 409.2
I think it’s interesting to look at raw data instead of percentages. It looks like quite some year-to-year variation, as stated in the R-1 reply above, (e.g. 2005, 2009), with a definite increasing trend starting in 2014. One of the problems with these data is that it’s hard for many of us to imagine what the difference between 310 and 355 (for example) MMBF might look like in terms of area or trees or …. Again, maybe some timber experts can help us out.
HOWEVER, in talking to Mark Haggerty of Headwaters Economics about PILT and SRS figures, following up on the Oregonian/OPB/Propublica article, he clued me in to a wonderful presentation of timber data that Headwaters provides to the public via an interactive map (yay, Headwaters!). A problem is that the handy graphs by region show only sold, not offered, so can’t be compared to Garrity’s claims.
I also compared the Region 1 spreadsheet and the Headwaters info for 2018 Idaho and they did not seem to match. Region 1 has Idaho sold 148.2, and Headwaters has 205.2, as far as I can tell. I am hoping some timber data expert can come to my rescue in explaining what seems to be a discrepancy, or that Headwaters and the Forest Service will look into this.
Yes, this is a wandering trail. It started with Steve’s question about no-bid. We’re still waiting with the FS-WO on national no-bid.
Region 1 gave us all the data on sold, but Garrity was talking about offer, so we couldn’t compare those figures.
We have a great spreadsheet with all kinds of useful data from R-1.
Headwaters has a great and easy to use interactive map of cut and sold reports.
As far as I can tell so far, until someone helps me out here, they do not entirely match (R-1 and Headwaters).
Would really appreciate some help from The Smokey Wire timber experts.. you know who you are.