Forest Service:

The Flathead National Forest Cannot Meet Its Timber Goal

RCED-91-124: Published: May 10, 1991. Publicly Released: May 10, 1991.

Additional Materials:


James Duffus, III
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO collected information on planned and actual amounts of timber offered for sale from the Flathead National Forest in northwestern Montana.

GAO found that: (1) the Forest Service fell short of its Flathead timber-offering goal for the last 5 years by about 37 percent; (2) the goal for timber sales in a forest plan may not exceed the allowable sale quantity (ASQ), the maximum amount that the forest can produce in perpetuity after giving balanced consideration to other multiple issues in accordance with environmental standards; (3) the Flathead forest plan specified an ASQ of 500 million board feet (MMBF) for the first 5 years; (4) the Forest Service experienced difficulty in offering many proposed sales due to environmental organizations' concern over their effects on wildlife and water quality; (5) even if planned sales had met all environmental standards, the forest only had sufficient funding to prepare 443 MMBF; (6) the Flathead's continued inability to meet its original, unattainable ASQ-based goal will contribute to production cutbacks and mill closures as early as fiscal year 1990; and (7) Flathead officials have no immediate plans to revise the present 10-year forest plan ASQ.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency disagrees with the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to revise the allowable sale quantity and related future goals for Flathead National Forest timber offerings as soon as possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture


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