Federal Government Squanders Valuable Public Resources
U.S. Taxpayers Pay to Have Their National Forests Logged, Depleted
Below is a news announcement from http://forests.org and Taxpayers for Common Sense. The corporate welfare scandal of paying private companies to take publicly-owned timber, has reached an all-time high.
Nationwide, national forests lost $126 million on logging in fiscal 1998, up from $116 in losses the year before. The report was two years late because the agency has been "revising" its accounting procedures.
The increase in losses came largely because forest officials spent far more money on free roads for private logging companies, and other giveaways, than they collected for the timber they sold, according to the report.
Conservationists chastised the agency for waiting so long to report its losses. "If it were you or I, the IRS would have been knocking at our door a long time ago," said Jonathan Oppenheimer of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Forest Service spokesman Joe Walsh said figures from more recent years were being processed, but did not know when they would be available.
Federal officials concede logging in national forests costs taxpayers.
Timber Subsidies Reach Record LevelsTaxpayer subsidies for logging on National Forests are at an all-time high, according to the report released this morning by the United States Forest Service (USFS).
"Money doesn't grow on trees, but in this case it may," said Jonathan Oppenheimer, Program Director at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "This report makes clear that timber companies have squandered millions of taxpayer dollars with federally-subsidized, inefficient logging practices."
In 1997, the Forest Service reported a loss of $88 million. According to today's report, Timber Sale Program Information and Reporting System (TSPIRS), the Forest Service lost $126 million as a result of money-losing logging operations in the national forests. The USFS's timber sale program generated $546 million in FY1998, but the program cost $672 million to operate. The loss equals a $2,200 subsidy per timber job.
"This free lunch for the timber industry must end. This is a clear- cut case of corporate welfare," continued Oppenheimer.
By providing timber to private logging companies at a substantial loss, the Forest Service wastes millions of taxpayer dollars every year. General Accounting Office (GAO) reports have estimated the losses to be much higher than the USFS figure -- approximately $2 billion between 1992-1997.
The annual TSPIRS report is supposed to be prepared by May of the following year, but the Forest Service has continually pushed the release date further back. This year, the Forest Service delayed more than 29 months before they publicly released the findings of the 1998 TSPIRS report.
By postponing the release of report, the Forest Service had the opportunity to massage numbers to create the most politically benign report possible, according to Oppenheimer.
Even though the amount of timber harvested from National Forests has decreased significantly in the past decade, Congress continues to increase funding for the timber program. The GAO and the Forest Service recognize the increased losses from timber sales, yet corrupt members of Congress seems unwilling to respond.
In years past, amendments have been offered in both the House and the Senate to reduce subsidies for logging and logging road construction. Last year a bi-partisan amendment sponsored by Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV) and Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) lost by a margin of 45-54.
"If the President is serious about reducing corporate welfare, he can start by taking an ax to timber subsidies," concluded Oppenheimer.
For a list of the states with the most timber subsidies, go to http://www.taxpayer.net. A copy of the Forest Service report is available at http://www.fs.fed.us/land/fm/tspirs/1998tspirs/.
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