Forest Service Puts Timber Sales On Hold
Undated (AP) _ The U.S. Forest Service has postponed more than one-third of the 1988 timber sales proposed in Northwest national forests after a judge ruled the public must be given time to comment on federal timber resales.
″It’s dramatic. It could be a real disruption in the industry,″ said Ted LaDoux, director of forestry affairs for the Northwest Independent Forest Manufacturers, which represents about 70 mills.
The Forest Service’s regional office in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday ordered supervisors of the 19 national forests in Washington and Oregon not to advertise, auction or award the resale of timber that earlier was involved in contract defaults.
Some of the affected timber was covered by contracts that were returned to the government under contract-relief legislation.
The Forest Service order affects up to 2 billion board feet of the 4.5 billion feet scheduled for sale this year. However, an unidentified amount already has been sold since the federal fiscal year began Oct. 1.
The postponement could affect ″log poor″ companies that had planned to begin harvesting at lower elevations as soon as next week. With logging curtailed last fall by drought and fire-danger restrictions, many mill owners have kept operating with only small supplies of raw materials. e ruling overturned a finding by U.S. District Judge James Burns of Portland, who said the appeal period could be waived because the public had an opportunity to appeal before the initial sales were made years ago.
Burns ruled in a case involving a timber sale in the Breitenbush area of Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, where logging of old-growth fir is opposed by environmentalists.
Opdyke said further instructions were expected next week from the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Environmentalists, who had fought to retain the 45-day comment period, said the sales need to be updated, anyway, because legislation passed since the original sales in the late 1970s now offers more protections for fish and wildlife.
″We have no intention of stopping the timber sale program,″ said Charlie Raines, a Sierra Club representative in Seattle. ″But in those cases where the issues are significant, we need to make sure that the Forest Service follows the laws.″
In Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which stretches along the west slope of the Cascades in Washington, the delay could affect up to 30 percent of the timber planned for sale this fiscal year, said Jerry Hazen of the Forest Service.
″There’s a timber sale scheduled next week that we planned to bid on,″ said Ron Baker, timber manager for Miller Shingle in Granite Falls, Wash. Baker said a delay of that sale could spell hardship for the mill, which is the major employer in Granite Falls.
″This will have an immediate effect on people who planned to log as soon as next week,″ said Mike Sullivan, spokesman for the Northwest Forestry Association, which represents mill owners. ″Our members are log poor. This will create some big problems.″