United States Forest Service: Only Seeing Trees for their Timber

Feature story - April 1, 2004
Instead of upholding its mission "to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations," the U.S. Forest Service is wasting taxpayers' money on logging and road building in our national forests.

The Forest Service is charged with managing 191 million acres of forest and rangeland, an area equal to the size of Texas and 8.5 percent of the total U.S. land area. By law and at every level of planning, the Forest Service must ensure the social and economic benefits of its forest management for all Americans. This means before it begins any timber sale program it must conduct a cost benefit analysis that accounts for the full monetary and social value of the standing forest and assess those values against those gained by the sale of the timber, as well as an environmental impact analysis.

The Forest Service consistently ignores this type of analysis while steadfastly pursuing its timber sale program. This is a breach of both the law and its responsibility to the American people who have entrusted and funded this agency to protect our forests. In fiscal year 1997, taxpayers provided over $1 billion to subsidize private logging companies that destroy our forests, while the Forest Service spends millions of dollars for road building and other timber extraction processes. The Forest Service has been unable to provide data on the cost of its timber programs since 1998. At that time, the agency reported a $126 million loss, but an independent analysis found losses to be three times that amount.

Our tax dollars would be far better spent on the ecological and recreational resources that forests provide, creating both economic gain and keeping the forest ecosystem thriving. If the Forest Service were a company, it would have gone bankrupt long ago.

The Facts

USFS abuses taxpayers trust by subsidizing the private timber industry.Taxpayers provide over $1 billion dollars annually to subsidize private logging companies to destroy our forests.

Americans profit more from forests than from timber. Annually, USFS timber sales produce roughly $4 billion per year while recreation, fish and wildlife, clean water, and roadless areas provide a combined total of $224 billion to the American economy each year.

Clean water depends on forests. National forests provide the equivalent of 1.7 trillion gallons of clean drinking water per year. Forests also provide water to over 900 cities and towns across the United States.

Timber means less jobs. Recreation in national forests accounts for over 30 times both the amount of revenue and jobs created than those from USFS timber sales.