Forest Service:

Amount of Timber Offered, Sold, and Harvested, and Timber Sales Outlays, Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1997

RCED-99-174: Published: Jun 15, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the costs associated with the Forest Service's timber sales program for fiscal years (FY) 1992 through 1997, focusing on the: (1) amount of timber offered for sale, sold, and harvested; (2) outlays for timber sales by type of outlay; and (3) estimated cost per thousand board feet harvested.

GAO noted that: (1) during FY 1992 through FY 1997, the amount of timber offered for sale decreased 21 percent, the amount of timber sold decreased 23 percent, and the amount of timber harvested by timber purchasers decreased 55 percent, while the outlays to prepare and administer these sales decreased about 21 percent; (2) although the amount of timber offered, sold, and harvested appeared to be stabilizing during FY 1995 through FY 1997, the individual types of outlays, such as sales preparation or planning for transportation systems, varied considerably from decreases of almost 61 percent to increases of almost 90 percent; (3) according to the Forest Service, in FY 1997, the estimated national cost per thousand board feet ranged from $186 for timber sales conducted primarily to supply timber to $194 for timber sales being made primarily to help achieve desired ecological conditions; (4) from FY 1993 through FY 1997, the national cost per thousand board feet rose almost 35 percent for commodity sales and almost 72 percent for stewardship sales; (5) the Forest Service identified the shift to more stewardship sales and reducing or eliminating the practice of clearcutting, which increases the number of acres required to obtain the same quantity of timber volume, as reasons for the cost increases; and (6) in addition, stewardship sales sometimes require more road construction, involve increased requirements for performing landscape and watershed analysis, and involve the increased monitoring and surveying of species to obtain the same volume of wood products.

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