Independent government studies have shown that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) commercial timber program loses hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The Forest Service’s own conservative estimates show that it lost $88 million last year.
Until 1996, the USFS had consistently denied that it lost money on its timber program. In a report to Congress that year, the Forest Service included up-front costs of building logging roads for the first time in their history. Still, its 1996 estimate of a $15 million loss fell far short of the findings of independent governmental studies.
According to one of these studies, a 1995 General Accounting Office (GAO) report, the federal timber program lost nearly $1 billion dollars between 1992 and 1994. The President’s Council of Economic Advisers found that the Forest Service lost an additional $234 million in 1995.
How? The Forest Service and taxpayers lose money through direct subsidies to the timber industry. The agency designs and builds hundreds of miles of roads per year, so that private timber companies can cut down the trees.
According to Forest Service data, there are already over 370,000 miles of roads in our National Forest System — enough to circle the earth more than 15 times!
Money-losing timber sales also waste tax dollars. In such sales, the agency spends more money on the administration and planning of the sale than it receives in receipts from selling the trees.
Congress has the opportunity to eliminate these subsidies in the coming weeks. Legislation to be introduced by Elizabeth Furse (D-OR) would reduce the timber program’s budget by $144 million and redirect $44 million to road maintenance and water quality improvements.
The Furse Amendment is expected to come up for a vote in both the House and Senate in mid-July. Now is the time to contact your congressmen and tell them to vote for it, and make the timber industry operate without the crutch of taxpayer dollars.
The question is: Will our political leaders heed the concerns of taxpayers, or will they cater to the interests of the timber industry? The time has come to dispose of these ridiculous government hand-outs and force timber companies to be responsible for their own costs.
$10 million from the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization program (NEPO) and $19 million from the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) was cut last week from the FY99 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Both were wasteful, pork barrel spending.