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Know the West

When green becomes red


Red ink is red ink, but the U.S. Forest Service and The Wilderness Society color their images of commercial logging on our national forests in grossly different shades. The Forest Service says it made $16 million from commercial timber sales in Oregon and Washington in fiscal year 1996. The Wilderness Society estimates the agency lost $115.9 million on those sales. Looking at the nation as a whole, the Forest Service's Forest Management Program Report announced that its commercial timber program lost $14.7 million. Agency spokesman Alan Polk blames the loss on less timber available for sale, an emphasis on salvage logging, stringent environmental standards and a shift from commercial timber sales toward achieving long-term forest health and water quality. The Wilderness Society says the losses are much greater. In its January report, Double Trouble: The Loss of Money in Our National Forests, the group estimates the agency lost $204 million. The 15-page report says that the Forest Service ignores 70 percent of the costs for building and maintaining logging roads, office overhead and the 25 percent of all commercial revenues that must be paid to counties where timber is harvested. "In any given year in the last 10 years, roughly 50 to 60 percent (of Forest Service timber) was sold below-cost," says Wilderness Society spokesman Michael Francis.

The society's report is available for $2 from the Publications Department, The Wilderness Society, 900 17th St. NW, Washington, DC 20006-2596, or for free on the Web at www.wilderness.org. The Forest Service's report can be obtained by calling 202/205-1162, or on the Web at www.fs.fed.us.

*J.T. Thomas