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In early October, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that logging after the Biscuit fire wasted taxpayer money and failed to deliver promised fire safety and restoration work.  The report released by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, revealed that the Biscuit logging project is nearly $2 million in the red.

The authoritative, 74-page report by the non-partisan research arm of Congress found that:

1. Expenses were $10.7 million, but logging receipts only generated $8.8 million.  Most funds were generated from accessible roadside “hazard tree” logging ($5.1 million).  This means losses from the more controversial Biscuit timber sales totaled $7 million.

2. Delays in the project, often blamed on conservations, were actually caused in part by a dramatic downsizing of local Forest Service staff.  Personnel fell from 619 in 2002 to 400 staff in 2005 – a reduction of about a third.

3. The extreme size of the proposed logging and flaws in mapping and remote sensing technology also contributed to delays in producing logging plans.

4. Litigation from conservation groups played no role in delaying implementation of the logging.

5. Restoration and fire safety work that was supposed to be funded by receipts from logging are unlikely to occur unless Congress appropriates additional funds.

This report undermines many of the specious excuses used by the Bush administration, Representative Greg Walden and others pushing a post-fire logging bill (HR 4200) in Congress.  There is a chance that desperate anti-forest Senators could attach it as a “rider” to an unrelated government funding bill in the last “lame-duck” session before the holiday break.

TAKE ACTION

Call your Senators today!  Tell them:

1. The GAO report on the Biscuit fire logging project raises new concerns about HR 4200, the Walden post-fire logging bill.

2. To oppose any version of HR 4200 in the Senate, and strongly object to any attempt to pass it as a “rider.”

OREGON

Senator Ron Wyden
Portland: (503) 326-7525 // DC: (202) 224-5244

Senator Gordon Smith
Portland: (503) 326-3386 // DC: (202) 224-3753

OTHER STATES

Call the Congressional Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your Senators.

To find out who your members of Congress are, visit: http://www.congress.org

MORE INFO:

In response to the report, Senator Bingaman said:

“This effort appears to be one of many instances where the Forest Service promised restoration and fuels reduction in conjunction with timber sales, did the logging at a cost of millions of tax dollars, and still has not started most of the restoration and other work.  Taxpayers are going to have to spend millions more just cleaning up the damage from the logging than the government made from the timber sales.”

“Meanwhile, as another recent study concluded, the logging killed 70 percent of the natural tree regeneration and elevated wildfire fuel loads.  At the same time, promises of community fire protection, habitat restoration and scientific analyses remain unscheduled and unfulfilled.”

The GAO released its study as the White House and logging proponents are trying to pass legislation that would increase logging after natural disturbances under the guise of forest restoration.  The Walden logging bill (HR 4200) would weaken environmental safeguards and erode public oversight to increase logging after natural disturbances such as forest fires, wind-throw, ice-storms and rainstorms.  The bill provides no protections for sensitive areas such as roadless forests, botanical areas or popular recreation sites.

The GAO report confirms what the Siskiyou Project and other conservation groups have claimed for years: Biscuit logging was losing millions of taxpayer dollars with below-cost timber sales.  Some Biscuit timber sales did not sell while others sold for as little as $15 per thousand board feet of wood – that is about $75 for an entire log truck load of wood.

Other studies by the GAO during the 1990s found that most timber sales on National Forests lose money.  From 1992-1997 the GAO estimated that the Forest Service commercial logging program lost over $300 million each year.  A more recent independent analysis estimates losses from the timber sale program are now much higher – up to $860 million in 2004.