Timber Harvest Levels for National Forests:

How Good Are They?

CED-78-15: Published: Jan 24, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 1978.

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Increasing concerns have been expressed by Congress, the timber industry, environmentalists, and timber-dependent communities about the amount of timber being harvested from national forests. Some believe that the Forest Service should increase its level of cutting timber in order to reduce losses, increase supplies, and reduce unemployment. Others believe that timber cutting should be reduced in order to reduce the decline in recreational resources, reduce soil disturbances, and assure future timber supplies.

While the Forest Service recognized these concerns in developing its new timber management plans, it has not developed the plans with the uniformity and precision needed for assuring sustained timber harvests and coordinating them with other forest resource uses. Statistical reliability criteria were established for estimating national forest timber inventories but not for specific timber classifications used to determine allowable harvest levels. Uncertainties in determining harvest levels resulted from sampling errors, difficulties in determining statistical reliability of estimates, failure to identify areas requiring certain management practices, and questionable management assumptions and procedures used to determine harvest levels. All timber management practices that were being used or could be used to sustain harvest levels and achieve higher levels were not given adequate consideration in timber management planning. Conflicts between timber uses and other forest resource uses occurred in implementing some plans. Basing timber sales and management decisions on harvest levels that are uncertain could lead to overcutting or undercutting which could influence lumber supplies and prices.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Forest Service should: evaluate timber inventory methods and modify inventory procedures for national forests to assure that data developed are reasonably reliable for determining harvest levels, managing resources, and identifying areas that need specified measures; establish reliability criteria; establish validity of management assumptions and options; seek congressional guidance on whether future management practices should justify current harvest increases; assure that forest management officials maintain adequate records of progress; assure that all timber management practices are adequately considered; and take actions to minimize conflicts of interest between timber harvests and other forest resource uses. Congress should provide guidance and direction to help the Forest Service resolve unsettled issues.


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