December 21, 1996 in Idaho

Forest Service Logging Profits Continue Slump Court Rulings, Wildlife Concerns Behind Fifth Straight Year Of Decline, Official Says


Government profits from logging on national forests in the Northwest plummeted in fiscal 1995, marking the fifth straight year of decline.

The U.S. Forest Service reported Thursday a net gain of $43.6 million from timber sales in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 1995. That compared to profits of $107.5 million in fiscal 1994 and $234.7 million in fiscal 1993.

Lisa Naylor, a forester for the Northwest region of the Forest Service, said the decline followed a trend and could be partly blamed on decreased logging due to court rulings and increased concern for fish and wildlife, such as the threatened spotted owl.

The Northwest Forest Plan, developed under federal court order to protect the owl and other fish and wildlife from extinction, cut logging on Northwest national forests by 80 percent. The plan went into effect in fiscal 1995.

The salvage rider, enacted by Congress in July 1995 to increase logging of dead and dying trees and revive old timber sales that had been deemed too environmentally sensitive, took effect too late to significantly affect 1995 profits, Naylor said.

Normally released in March, the report was delayed by a change of personnel in the U.S. Agriculture Department, the Forest Service said.

But the timber industry countered that it was obviously delayed to keep bad news from affecting the November election.

“The bottom line is, this was an election year,” said Chris West, vice president of the Northwest Forestry Association. “It’s pretty typical, a snail’s pace out of the administration and the secretary of agriculture’s office.”

Nationally, the Forest Service reported a net revenue gain of $59 million.

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