Public Timber:

Federal and State Programs Differ Significantly in Pacific Northwest

RCED-96-108: Published: May 23, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO compared the timber sale programs of the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service with those of Washington and Oregon, focusing on: (1) the major differences between the programs; and (2) how these differences affect agency and state planning processes.

GAO found that: (1) the states' timber sale programs are tailored to generate timber production revenues for funding of schools and counties; (2) federal legislation requires agencies to manage their lands for the public benefit, regulate timber harvests and protect other resources, and develop detailed management plans; (3) the states adjust the amount of timber they sell to take advantage of market prices; (4) the agencies sell a steady amount of timber regardless of market forces; (5) the states' timberlands are generally available for timber production, contain only second-growth forests, and have road systems; (6) national forests are not exclusively available for timber production, contain old-growth and second-growth forests, and have road networks and exclusive wilderness areas; (7) the states' timber sales are funded by a legislatively specified percentage of gross timber sale receipts; (8) federal timber sale programs are funded by annual appropriations; (9) the states' long- and short-term planning processes are relatively short and involve generally fewer people than the federal agencies'; (10) federal agencies must develop various alternative plans, satisfy conflicting interests, incorporate the public's input, redevelop or review their plans on a regular basis, and face legal obstacles; and (11) modifying the agencies' timber sales programs to resemble the states' programs would require significant program structural changes and consideration of how to best balance the goals of multiple resource uses.

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