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Healthy, Expensive, Forests

National Forests Fall Victim To Firefighting

The proposed auction of new logging rights here [Kaibab National Forest] reflects a shift in the federal government's forest management priorities that disturbs environmentalists, who say it is giving the timber industry access to previously off-limits forests under the guise of reducing the danger of wildfires. And though the timber sales produce revenue for the Treasury, the cost of administering the auctions is forcing the U.S. Forest Service to defer other conservation projects.

... Jim Matson, a southwest-area consultant for the Portland, Ore.-based American Forest Resource Council, said the timber industry "can't afford to subsidize the nation's forests."

These timber sales come at a cost: The Forest Service's timber sale program lost $947 million between 1992 and 2001, says the public watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Federal officials are scaling back elsewhere: Just this month they decided to postpone a year-long project aimed at protecting the Anderson Mesa in Arizona's Coconino National Forest because they did not have the money. "It's common knowledge a lot of dollars have been reprogrammed to address the fuels-reduction issue," said Carol Holland, the Coconino National Forest's analysis group leader.

The timber industry can't afford to subsidize the nation's forests, but it can afford to be subsidized by the nation's forests.


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