Washington, DC –Since 1980, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has lost more than $1.7 billion on timber sales in the Tongass National Forest, according to a new report by Taxpayers for Common Sense titled, Cutting Our Losses after 40 Years of Money-Losing Timber Sales in the Tongass.
The report comes out as the USFS may soon finalize a new rule that could substantially increase USFS losses by opening new areas in the Tongass for logging. The new rule would repeal the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibits logging in unroaded areas of the Tongass.
“It actually costs taxpayers millions to ‘sell’ timber that we collectively own, which makes no sense,” said Autumn Hanna, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Rolling back the roadless rule will put the losses from a clearly broken timber sale program on steroids.”
Using Forest Service budget data, the group reports Tongass timber sales over the last four decades generated $227 million in revenue but cost $1.96 billion to administer. Since fiscal year 1980, the USFS has lost approximately $1.7 billion, or an average of $44 million per year. The report estimates USFS losses will top $190 million over the next five years if the agency moves forward with currently planned timber sales.
In its justification for the rule, the USFS grossly overstates benefits for loggers while ignoring the substantial costs of new road construction and maintenance. Opening new areas to timber sales could dramatically increase taxpayer losses because of the costs of road construction and maintenance. The Tongass National Forest currently has more than 4,000 miles of roads which are almost exclusively used by the timber industry for logging purposes.
“Opening up new areas to timber simply saddles taxpayers with even more construction and maintenance costs and piles onto the Forest Service’s existing $3 billion maintenance backlog,” continued Hanna.
In June, the Office of Management and Budget began reviewing a draft of the final rule, which could be published in the coming weeks.
“Instead of scrapping the original Roadless rule, the Forest Service needs to reform the timber program so taxpayers are no longer essentially paying loggers to cut down trees from our National Forests and export it abroad,” concluded Hanna.
ABOUT: Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) is a nonpartisan budget watchdog that has served as an independent voice for the American taxpayer since 1995. TCS works to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly and that government operates within its means.
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