Corporate Welfare Logging

August 11, 2000

USDA Forest Service - CAET
Sierra Nevada Framework Project
P.O. Box 7669
Missoula, MT 59807

Re: Sierra Nevada Framework Draft EIS.

The future of the Sierra Nevada region is not in corporate welfare logging, and the sooner the Forest Service realizes that, the sooner the agency will join the 21st century and help develop the more sustainable economy that is already emerging in the region. Why continue the charade of pillaging our National Forests at taxpayer expense? A sound plan for the Sierra Nevada that ends commercial logging on our National Forests could save our endangered and threatened species and save us a lot of money.

Therefore I am extremely concerned that the eight alternatives contained in the current draft do not include a plan that would dispense with commercial logging in the national forests altogether. Because such logging drastically endangers wildlife, increases the risk of catastrophic forest fires, degrades water quality, and costs millions of our tax dollars in logging industry subsidies, such an alternative would, at first glance, seem not only "reasonable" but preferable to any of the eight in the draft E.I.S. In light of these factors and the public's clear opposition to commercial logging in national forests, why hasn't the Service drafted a no-logging alternative? (It is also difficult to see why Alternatives 6 and 8 should be "preferred" over Alternative 5, if stewarding the forests is primary, as it should be.)

Given that NEPA was designed to "prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere," that commercial logging is a major force causing such damage in national forests, and given that NEPA requires that any Forest Service action be preceded by a detailed and fair EIS that considers all reasonable alternatives, there seems to be a strong likelihood that any EIS that fails to consider a No Commercial Logging alternative would be fruitless if challenged in court. Further, there are several strong reasons to end such logging.

I therefore urge the Forest Service to re-draft the EIS to include a No Commercial Logging alternative because:

1. The law requires consideration of this alternative. The Service is not merely considering amendments to present management plans; the Framework is a major overhaul of present management that apparently seeks to incorporate the latest science (and the balance of this scientific evidence strongly suggests that commercially driven logging is unraveling the Sierra Nevada's ecosystems and the myriad values they embody).

2. This alternative would represent an extreme cost-saving to the taxpayer. The Congressional Research Service has established that the Forest Service timber program costs taxpayers over $1 billion annually ($1.2 billion in Fiscal Year 1997 alone). The federally subsidized logging in California is more substantial than that in most states.

3. This alternative would protect the region's forests (as an irreplaceable asset to recreation, aesthetics, and the ecology) for future generations.

4. This alternative would be safer, in that timber sales on national forests increase the risk and severity of forest fires more than any other human activity. (This was the conclusion of the 1996 SNEP study commissioned and funded by Congress.)

5. This no-logging alternative would help preserve endangered species.

6. This alternative would help preserve water quality, minimize soil erosion, and preserve aesthetic beauty of forest land.

7. This alternative would accord with public opinion, since the public does not want timber companies logging our national forests, as demonstrated in the Forest Service's own poll in 1994 and in the 1998 national poll by Democratic and Republican pollsters on behalf of Taxpayers for Common Sense. The public does not want timber companies logging our national forests. (The latter found that nearly 7 in 10 citizens opposed such logging.)

8. This alternative would not endanger the nation's timber supply, in that timber sales on national forests comprise less than 3 % of the nation's total annual wood consumption. There is abundant room for conservation and recycling to pick up the slack when logging on national forests ceases. For example, roughly half the U.S. hardwood lumber production goes to shipping pallets, more than half of which are discarded after just one use.

Even from a purely business view, the corporate logging in public forests is bad: not only does it cost the taxpayers more than $1 billion a year (plus extensive damage from floods and mud-slides to which logging contributes!) and the loss of valuable resources, it discourages the hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities that are the real income-producers in our national forests. The Forest Service itself predicted five years ago that by this year, recreation, hunting, and fishing in national forests would contribute more than 30 times more income to the nation's economy and would create 38 times more jobs than logging on national forests. Thus the financial "balance sheet" not only fails to outweigh the considerations against commercial logging, it supports an end to such logging!

Until the Forest Service begins to factor in what its commercial logging program is costing the Earth, the future, and taxpayers, I will continue to say when asked about the Forest Service: "I am fully in favor of the Forest Service. I wish we had one." This country needs a true Forest Service will serve the needs of the forest which serves all of us providing oxygen, climate stabilization, flood control, clean water, soil production, wildlife habitat, and beauty as long as the ecosystem is kept intact. Under current practices, we have a Timber Service which more often serves the "need" of our logging companies for huge profits at public expense. We can do better for the Sierra Nevada and for the country.


David R. Brower
Founder and Chair, Earth Island Institute
Founder, League of Conservation Voters
Founder, Friends of the Earth