Forest Service:

Factors Affecting Timber Sales in Five National Forests

RCED-95-12: Published: Oct 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on timber sales in five national forests between 1991 and 1993, focusing on: (1) whether the Forest Service met its allowable sale quantity (ASQ) for the five forests; and (2) why the quantity of timber sold from the national forests was sometimes substantially below ASQ.

GAO found that: (1) timber sales for each of the 5 forests reviewed were significantly below the average ASQ between 1991 and 1993; (2) factors contributing to the Forest Service's inability to meet ASQ included the lack of adequate data and estimating techniques to base ASQ, the emergence of new and changing forest management priorities, and rising or unanticipated costs associated with preparing and administering timber sales; (3) forest officials at one of the five forests overestimated the size of the timber inventory and improperly based the inventory on average volumes rather than on the specific parts of the forest where timber sales were being prepared; and (4) ASQ were reduced in Pacific northwest forests after the northern spotted owl was listed as an endangered species and much of the proposed harvest areas were set aside for its habitat.

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