Forest Service Economics 101

  It seemed an offer the Forest Service couldn't refuse: The government gets the best price for its timber, and the buyer never cuts down any trees. Yet on March 21, the agency rejected an environmental group's high bid of $28,875 for 275 acres of fire-damaged trees in the eastern Cascades of Washington near the Canadian border. Instead, it accepted the second-highest bid to ensure that the trees are cut.

"Their decision makes terrible business sense," said Mitch Friedman of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. "We offered them more money and also said we would preserve the public's resource."

But Sam Gehr, supervisor of the Okanogan National Forest, told the Seattle Times that he awarded the contract to a local logging company because the rules require the trees be cut. "The fact that they weren't going to fulfill the contract obligation was the key to our choice," he said.

Gehr sold the estimated 750 trailer-loads of timber to Double A Logging for $28,000. The sale cost the agency $300,000 to prepare. Friedman said his group plans to appeal the decision.

*Richard Hicks
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