Forest Service Efforts To Change Timber Sale Payment Method

RED-75-396: Published: Jul 16, 1975. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1975.

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The primary timber sale method used in the Forest Service's western regions has been log measurement. Under this method a purchaser agrees to pay for logs on the basis of a Forest Service or scaling bureau estimate of the marketable volume of wood in logs that have been cut. In recent years, the Service has been trying to increase its western regions' use of the tree measurement method of selling timber. Under this method the purchaser agrees to pay a specific amount for the timber in a sale area on the basis of a Forest Service estimate of the marketable volume of wood in the trees before they are cut down. Because of industry opposition to this method, the Service has attempted, through test sales, to obtain data to compare the two methods.

In a report to Senator Pete V. Domenici, GAO pointed out that, because the Service had not provided special funds and adequate guidelines and procedures for conducting test sales, (1) there had been inconsistencies among the regions in carrying out the test sales, and (2) the relative accuracy and cost of the two methods had not been determined. The Service issued revised guidelines and procedures in March 1975 but had not established a test-sale program completion date or plans for special funding. Until the program is completed, the Service will not be able to provide well-documented evidence to settle the questions of effectiveness and cost of the two methods.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to: (1) set dates for timely completion of test sales and give high priority to meeting those dates; (2) take steps to provide the Forest Service's regions with the funds needed to conduct adequate and timely test sales; (3) evaluate and report to the appropriate congressional committees the results of test sales as they are completed for specific forests, tree species, and timber conditions; and (4) use the tree measurement method for all forests, tree species, and timber conditions for which test sales have shown net benefits to be gained from its use and where Forest Service personnel have the capability to prepare tree measurement sales professionally and accurately.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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