The Great Forest Giveaway

June, 2016

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Forest Service to Subsidize Destruction of Owl Habitat

Call it “Christmas in May”: the Klamath National Forest is set to give a big gift to the logging industry at the expense of taxpayers, wildlife and watersheds. The Klamath National Forest is having a “fire sale,” offering to sell old-growth forests as part of the Westside Timber Sale for as little as 50 cents per thousand board feet.

The Klamath National Forest has some explaining to do. Less than a year ago, when selling the project to the public, the Klamath National Forest estimated it would sell logs for $173 per thousand board feet. Today, the same amount of wood is being sold for just two quarters.

While 50 cents cannot buy a newspaper anymore, it can buy a lot of timber. To put this amount in perspective, timber trucks will roll out of the forest with loads costing less than the price of a cup of coffee. Enough lumber for a regular house can be purchased for less
than a sandwich.  

“There is no other way of looking at this, Klamath National Forest is giving away our public forests,” said Kimberly Baker of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “The public and future generations will pay the real cost, including lost wildlife and even more dangerous fire conditions.”

The cost of this giveaway is extraordinary.

First, these timber giveaways come at an extreme ecological cost. The Klamath Timber Sale is in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, with most logging to occur on a critically important habitat corridor linking the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area to the Red Buttes Wilderness Area. This wild area is home to many rare and threatened species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the Westside Timber Sale may result in the “take,” which includes potential death, of up to 103 northern spotted owl, an amount totaling between one to two percent of all northern spotted owls in existence (at a time when owls are declining at nearly four percent a year and the rate of decline is increasing). Furthermore, the clear cut timber sale is going to result in sediment pollution and landslides into Klamath River tributaries that provide critical coho salmon habitat. The coho population in the project area is on the brink of extinction and this project could be the final straw.

Second, you are going to subsidize this destruction. Because of the rock-bottom prices, the Klamath National Forest will lose money on the sale—it will cost more for the agency to issue the sale than it will return in revenue. In effect, taxpayers will subsidize private timber companies to log on public land above critically important salmon streams in the Klamath Watershed and the destruction of northern spotted owl habitat.

What’s more, taxpayers will also pay to clean up the mess after logging is completed. The Klamath National Forest estimates that it will cost $27 million to treat slash from logging and replant after operations damage the chance for natural regeneration. In contrast, the Klamath National Forest estimated that the project will only bring in $800,000. In other words, taxpayers will be on the hook for over $26 million dollars. These costs would not be necessary if salvage logging did not occur.

The Klamath National Forest is accomplishing what Cliven Bundy and his band of extremists wanted: the giveaway of our national public trust. National forests are our public lands, our legacy for future generations. They are too precious to give away.

EPIC, together with the Karuk Tribe, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Klamath Riverkeeper, and the Center for Biological Diversity, is fighting this wanton destruction in federal court. Please visit wildcalifornia.org for more on the Westside Timber Sale and updates on our ongoing litigation.

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