Upcoming and Ongoing Taxpayer Losses from Timber Sales in the Tongass National Forest

Upcoming and Ongoing Taxpayer Losses from Timber Sales in the Tongass National Forest

Energy & Natural Resources  | Research & Analysis
Oct 27, 2015  | 3 min read

The federal government has a responsibility to ensure a fair return to the public for development of taxpayer-owned resources like timber. From 2008 through 2013, the Forest Service spent $139.1 million on timber sales in the Tongass and received ONLY $8.6 million in proceeds from these sales, a net loss of $130.5 million. That’s an average cost to taxpayers of $21.7 million per year from 2008-2013. The ongoing timber sale planning described below poses millions more in net losses for taxpayers over the next few years.

Updates:

April 2016:

March 2016:

  • Saddle Lakes timber sale is delayed, pending supplemental EIS – sale would be 47 mmbf on 2,327 acres, a potential loss of $35.2 million for taxpayers.
  • Lawmakers conduct hearings on the Forest Service budget

October 2015:

  • The Forest Service released its proposal for the Wrangell Island timber sale. The proposal would make 5,290 acres and 73 million board feet of timber available for harvest. Based on historical losses for timber sales in the Tongass, the estimated cost to taxpayers for the Wrangell Island sale is $54.7 million.
  • The Forest Service withdrew its Mitkof Island timber sale, which would have cost taxpayers $21.4 million.
  • The Forest Service announced the Saddle Lakes timber sale, comprising 2,327 acres and 47 million board feet of timber. Based on these specifications and historical financial losses in the Tongass, the Saddle Lakes sale will cost taxpayers more than $35.2 million.

August 2015:

  • The Forest Service announced the Navy timber sale, which will allow approximately 1,252 acres and 13.1 million board feet of timber to be harvested, for which the Forest Service estimates its administration and preparation costs to be over $2.5 million. However, based on historical Tongass timber loss, estimated taxpayer losses for the sale are more than $9.8 million.

July 2015:

  • The Forest Service moved forward with the Big Thorne timber sale, which allows for the harvest of 148.9 million board feet over a 10-year period from approximately 8,485 acres in the Tongass. This one sale will roughly equal the total amount of timber sold  in all Tongass sales from 2008 through 2012. Estimated losses to taxpayers: $111.7 million.
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