Lawsuit to stop national forest logging

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Fri Dec 18 22:01:06 EST 1998

The following article appeared in The Oregonian on Dec. 17, 1998, p A25

Lawsuit will demand stop to national-forest logging

The environmentalists; action against the U.S. Forest Service relies on a
theory that puts a price on a healthy ecosystem's benefits

By JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr., New York Times News Service

	WASHINGTON - A coalition of environmentalists plans to sue the U.S.
Forest Service today, demanding an end to logging in national forests on
grounds that the federal timber program causes more economic harm than good. 
     The environmental groups, led by Friends of the Earth and Forest
Guardians, assert that the Forest Service routinely ignores laws and
regulations that require it to calculate the economic costs of logging, such
as damage to water resources or tourism, and to weight them against the
benefits, such as the value of the timber.   In one sense, the lawsuit upends
the typical dispute between business groups, which say environmental
regulations cost more than they are worth, and environmentalists, who usually
argue that the benefits of strict environmental rules annot be expressed in
dollars.	For years, the environmentalists have fought attempts in
Congress to require cost-benefit tests. Now they are in court seeking exactly
that.	 The lawsuit has been joined by recreation, hunting and fishing
organizations, owners of small forest lots, tourism enterprises and others
who say they have been harmed economically by the logging program.    It is
supported by some natural resource economists who argue that it is possible
to measure the value of forests that are not logged - and that these values
probably far exceed the worth of the timber they hold and the jobs created by
logging.    The suit is to be filed in federal distrit court for Vermont, in
Burlington, said Brian Dunkiel, a staff lawyer for Friends of the Earth. It
follows a yearlong campaign in which the environmentalists filed
administrative appeals with the Forest Service challenging hundreds of
individual timber sales with similar arguments but were rebuffed repeatedly. 
     "The law required the Forest Service to account for net economic and
social values," Dunkiel said. "It is almost as though the Congress had hired
the Forest Service to serve as the public's accountant, to manage these
assets. What has become clear is that the Forest Service has failed
terribly."	  James Lyons, the undersecretary of agriculture for natural
resources, said he had not seen the complaint and could not address its
specifics.   "As an organization, we are certainly moving in a direction that
takes into account all the resources," Lyons said. "We are seeking to
improve, if not maximize, net public benefits. Our analysis is not focused
solely on timber production.  "It's not what we take out of the woods; it's
what we leave behind that really matters."	  The coalition's lawsuit
relies on a new but increasingly influential theory among ecologists that it
is possible to put a price on the public benefits that flow from healthy
ecosystems, such as providing habitat for commercial species, protecting
drinking water reserves, providing recreation and helping control global
warming.	It comes at a time whent he federal timber program, in which
the ofrest Service auctions its trees to commercial companies, is being
challenged on many fronts. The Clinton administration is consiering new
policies aimed at protecting the last pristine stands of trees in roadless
areas. Anti-logging forces have proposed legislation in Congress that would
restrict logging and road construction in tens of millions of acres in
national forests.

Note by Poster: I have been saying ntfp's (non-traditional forest products)
have far greater value than the trees' timber value alone since 1989. This
value can exceed the timber value of stand each year the trees are allowed to

Daniel B. Wheeler

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