Here's a news update on this topic.
After years of ignoring many costs of logging in the national forests, the government is now admitting that timber sales lost more than $88 million last year. In a report to Congress, obtained Wednesday, the Forest Service for the first time included as expenses the upfront cost of building logging roads on the balance sheet for timber sales.
For more than 20 years, environmental groups have pressured the Forest Service to include such costs, but until now the expenses were defrayed over 99 years. Under the new method of accounting, the losses skyrocketed from $15 million in 1996, the first year a loss was ever reported, to $88.6 million in 1997.
National forests account for only about 5% of the nation's logging, but because they are public lands they provoke fierce debate about proper uses between often-divergent interests such as timber companies, hunters, and environmental groups.
"This is an historic moment," said Dan Beard, senior vice president for the National Audubon Society. "They've always juggled the numbers. They've alwayse denied the timber program lost money. This is the first time the true profit and loss has been laid out."
Barry Poisky, spokesman for the American Forest and Paper Assn., said the report wil serve groups that want timber cutting banned in national forests.
No one expects timber production in national forests to end completely, and some cutting is necessary to promote health of older trees, guard against insects and disease, and protect against raging fires. But Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck said damaging practices such as clear-cutting forests will continue to dwindle.