Taxpayer Beware: Logging Bill Permits Losses

A House bill to open federal forests to massive logging promises windfall profits for taxpayers, but it slips in a caveat just in case.

By law, it says, the salvage timber sales can’t be stopped just because they lose money.

Aside from the environmental challenges, the bill is taking potshots for costing too much.

Sponsored by U.S. Reps. Charles Taylor, R-N.C., and Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the bill touts profits of $650 million.

The timber industry claims $1 billion in net gains for the treasury.

But on Page 7 of the bill under “cost considerations,” it states: “Forest health management activities undertaken pursuant to this section shall not be precluded because the costs of such activities are likely to exceed the revenues derived from such activities.”

Some big money will be made, both sides of the debate agree.

That’s because the bill not only targets dead and dying trees but also green ones, some old growth, growing near sickly stands.

Critics say removing majestic pine trees will not improve forest health or reduce wildfire risks - another of the bill’s considerations.

“Brush and grass historically are the fuel types that kill people, not big trees,” says John Kearns, a natural resource lawyer and Redmond, Ore., smokejumper.

“There’s absolutely no reason to take out mature old growth,” he says. “I’ve never been endangered by a large yellow-bellied ponderosa pine.”

Smokejumper Joseph Fox said Congress is using a cyclical drought to justify a “timber grab.”

“I’m not against logging,” he says. “But if they want to do something about catastrophic fire, maybe the government should look at global warming.”

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