Tongass National Forest:
Timber Provision of the Alaska Lands Act Needs Clarification
T-RCED-88-44, May 26, 1988
GAO discussed the Forest Service's management of the Tongass National Forest timber sales program pursuant to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). GAO noted that the Service: (1) complied with provisions that required it to offer 450 million board feet of timber to the timber industry each year; (2) did not meet the act's timber industry employment maintenance goal, due to a declining demand for timber and increased competition and efficiency within the industry; (3) did not establish sufficient flexibility in its Tongass Land Management Plan for supplying timber under varying market conditions; (4) properly used about $30 million from its Tongass Timber Supply Fund for road, employee-housing, and work-center construction; (5) properly did not use the fund for roads that timber firms should build; and (6) generated revenues of about $3.3 million and incurred costs totalling about $25.5 million in fiscal year 1986. GAO also noted that the Service improved its program by: (1) setting timber sales at levels to replace the previous year's sales volume; (2) starting road construction only after awarding a timber sale; and (3) easing construction standards to cut construction costs and enhancing timber area size to increase the harvest. GAO believes that Congress may wish to revise ANILCA to provide the Service with the flexibility it needs to supply timber under varying market conditions.