Timber sale procedures on NFS lands in the US?

Mike Hagen mhagen at mail.olympus.net
Thu Jan 29 13:20:11 EST 1998

Larry, I'll take a shot at your topic but there are a few caveats: My
time with the FS was some years back. I'd prefer that a person presently
working for them would answer but due to policy and general lack of net
connections, they likely can't or won't reply. And frankly, there are
very few timber people left in the USFS. This trade disagreement has
been going on for years and maybe its time for a little defining of

Larry Stamm wrote:
> With the recent announcement by the BC government of a reduction in the
> provincial stumpage rates, it appears the US- Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement
> is going to be re-examined.  Since the procedures for selling public timber
> differs so much between Canada and the US, I would like to ask a few questions
> of this NG so that I can make more sense of the rhetoric that is beginning once
> more to fly across the border.
> Specifically :
> 1) What is the typical time frame of a timber sale in the US National Forests?
1-2 years is normal for large multi-unit timber sales. "Small sales" can
be very short and intended for a silvicultural goal. Timber companies
(successful bidders) have extended time limits on uncut sales for many
reasons from market crashes to excessive and difficult sale conditions
by the FS. 
> 2) What are typical volumes sold in a single sale?
Believe it or not, FS sales usually have to (used to have to?) turn a
profit as appraised. Small/salvage sales run up to 500MBF with 200 being
common in the PNW, large sales can run up to 5mmbf, but were often
2-3MMBF. Size most often depended on the silvicultural problem or the
lay of the land. 
> 3) Are these sales truly sold on a competitive and open basis?  Auction or
> sealed bid?
Yes, definitely from what I've seen. There are two types of auction:
oral and sealed bid. Aside from isolated instances where collusion
(between bidders) has been proved, both varieties of bidding certainly
look competitive. Problems arise when a sale is so difficult no one
wants it, or a single timber company is the sole remaining bidder in a
> 4) What road building and maintenance requirements, if any, fall upon the
> winning bidder of a sale?
Depends entirely on the situation. Most sales are adequately roaded.
That's been the point of building them for so many years. There are very
few (possibly zero after the recent change of policy!) sales being put
into virgin territory. New road construction was formerly paid for with
purchaser credits or deducted from stumpage during the appraisal
process. The arguing point as I've understood it, is that the system 
subsidized the transportation net, which was to be in place for several
rotations. Sort term roads such as spurs and landings, had to be paid
for by the individual sales that required them. The two types of expense
could both be in effect on single sales. 
> 5) How are stumpage charges assessed across the various species and grades
> harvested from a sale? 
Very complicated but sensible. FS used (at least where I was) time based
conversion return appraisals and set (sometimes not too accurate) market
prices for logs. These would typically be "tuned" or adjusted by
comparitive sale values, if the results were obviously not in tune with
the current market. There some "seat of the pants" adjustment allowed,
particularly on Small/salvage sales.
> 6) What silvicultural requirements fall upon the winning bidder?
Aside from requirements integral to a sale, say a thinning prescription,
the logger did not do siviculture. That was paid for by a portion of the
stumpage (KV funds) and was an item in the appraisal.
> 7) Who does the pre-harvest planning and cruising?
Timber department staff.  Bidders cruise sales for their own needs. The
two do not mix.
> 8) Are there any restrictions on what can be done with the harvested timber?
NO exports of round wood, period. This is checked and has always been a
concern, especially when the wood gets to big sorting yards.

My apologies to current USFS timber officers finding mistakes in this.
It's been a few years for me and I may have missed a few changes. Speak
up guys!

Mike H.
> I can answer these questions in regards to BC and Alberta if anyone is
> interested.

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