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MARCH 6, 2001
1:20 PM
CONTACT:  Taxpayers for Common Sense
Jonathan Oppenheimer, 202-546-8500 x 110
Timber Subsidies Reach Record Levels,
According to New Report
Report Lays Groundwork for Congressional Fight to Eliminate Timber Subsidies
WASHINGTON - March 6 - Taxpayer subsidies for logging on National Forests are at an all-time high, according to a report released this morning by the United States Forest Service (USFS).

"Money doesn't grow on trees, but in this case it may," said Jonathan Oppenheimer, Program Director at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "This report makes clear that timber companies have squandered millions of taxpayer dollars with federally-subsidized, inefficient logging practices."

In 1997, the Forest Service reported a loss of $88 million. According to today's report, Timber Sale Program Information and Reporting System (TSPIRS), the Forest Service lost $126 million as a result of money-losing logging operations in the national forests. The USFS's timber sale program generated $546 million in FY1998, but the program cost $672 million to operate. The loss equals a $2,200 subsidy per timber job.

"This free lunch for the timber industry must end. This is a clear-cut case of corporate welfare," continued Oppenheimer.

By providing timber to private logging companies at a substantial loss, the Forest Service wastes millions of taxpayer dollars every year. General Accounting Office (GAO) reports have estimated the losses to be much higher than the USFS figure - approximately $2 billion between 1992-1997.

The annual TSPIRS report is supposed to be prepared by May of the following year, but the Forest Service has continually pushed the release date further back. This year, the Forest Service delayed more than 29 months before they publicly released the findings of the 1998 TSPIRS report.

By postponing the release of report, the Forest Service had the opportunity to massage numbers to create the most politically benign report possible, according to Oppenheimer.

Even though the amount of timber harvested from National Forests has decreased significantly in the past decade, Congress continues to increase funding for the timber program. The GAO and the Forest Service recognize the increased losses from timber sales, yet Congress seems unwilling to respond.

In years past, amendments have been offered in both the House and the Senate to reduce subsidies for logging and logging road construction. Last year a bi-partisan amendment sponsored by Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV) and Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) lost by a margin of 45-54.

"If the President is serious about reducing corporate welfare, he can start by taking an ax to timber subsidies," concluded Oppenheimer.


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