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Biscuit Salvage is a losing proposition

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Rich Fairbanks can be proud of the work he did in opting for 96 million board-feet to be cut on the Biscuit salvage (HCN, 5/16/05: Unsalvageable). The claim by OSU’s John Sessions that 2.5 billion board-feet could be salvaged was ludicrous. The regional Washington office estimate that 518 million board-feet could be salvaged was also unrealistic. Even the final scaled-back 372 million board-feet target would be unattainable.

The Forest Service remains committed to avoiding tracking the receipts, cost and net from its timber sales, although it has all of the facts needed to easily do so.

The Siskiyou’s average 13-year cut was only 20,841 million board-feet. It might have expected to ramp the cut up to 96 million board-feet over a three-year salvage effort.

Attaining the projected 124 million board-feet over three years was very unlikely. The Siskiyou’s 13-year timber cash-flow record, 1992-2004, shows a loss of $28.4 million. That’s a loss of $1,286 per acre logged. For 2004, the loss was $916 per acre. The more salvage the Siskiyou tried to market, the greater the loss and the lower would be the stumpage price paid by timber companies. So far, the numbers for 2005 are looking even worse.

Genuine fiscal prudence would pay real dividends.

Robert E. Wolf
Fellow, Society of American Foresters

St. Leonard, Maryland

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