NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Forest Service Jammed Up On Logging

February 5, 1999

Agriculture Department (USDA) officials charge the U.S. Forest Service with frequently failing to assess, prevent or correct environmental damage from logging in national forests. The report has become a weapon in the hands of environmental groups which are suing the agency in federal court to halt logging on federal lands.

  • The audit by the USDA's inspector general found that environmental studies required before logging was approved were poorly done, rules to protect streams and wildlife habitat from undue damage during logging were not followed, and steps planned to reduce some of the harm after logging were not carried out.
  • The Forest Service prepares at least 2,000 environmental assessments every year in which it is required to document in detail virtually every possible environmental consequence of each sale.
  • But the complex steps required by these rules and regulations also cost taxpayers money because many timber sales are canceled for environmental reasons -- and the government must then pay penalties to the timber companies for breach of contract.
  • Over the years, cancellations due to improper environmental planning have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

In fact, in one case it had to pay $650,000 to logging companies for breach of contract.

In 1997, the Forest Service sold more than three billion board feet of timber for nearly $500 million.

Source: James D. Cushman Jr., "Audit Faults Forest Service on Logging Damage to U.S. Forests," New York Times, February 5, 1999.


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