Funding struggles for my local Forest

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at
Sat Mar 20 09:05:19 EST 2004

March 17, 2004 Union Democrat
Loggers' supply reduced
Stanislaus National Forest officials borrowed $780,000 to cover
expenses from the Brown Darby Fire Salvage Sale last year.
As a result, they said yesterday that loggers will have fewer burned
trees to harvest in 2004.
Much of last year's cut came from the scene of the 2001 Brown Darby
Fire on the Tuolumne and Calaveras county line near Arnold. While
flames didn't claim many marketable trees last fire season, the news
still shook loggers who say there is already barely enough wood coming
off Forest Service land to support their business.
The announcement came during a timber sale program update meeting at
the Stanislaus supervisor's office in Sonora.
The timber to be harvested this year mainly comes from fuel-reduction
programs and hazard removal projects.
In normal years - years after forest fires - the Forest Service sells
marketable trees from burn sites to loggers. The timber benefits the
loggers, who then sell the harvested wood at a profit, and their
clearing work helps the Forest Service by removing potential fire
fuel, said Stanislaus spokesman Jerry Snyder. The Forest Service
usually pays to get rid of burned debris from fire sites, and salvage
sales let the government agency recover some of that expense.
But the work was once funded by money from other timber sales on the
forest, Snyder said. As those sales were sharply reduced on the
Stanislaus - from 112.9 million board feet in 1989 to 12.8 million
board feet in 2003 - the dollars to pay for salvage sales dwindled as
"As a forest, we don't have any salvage sale money this year," said
Calaveras District Ranger Rob Griffith.
The biggest fire last year was the Kibbie Fire - a controlled burn
that engulfed 6,300 acres on the Groveland District of Stanislaus
National Forest and in Yosemite National Park before it was
Because Stanislaus officials felt it was important to clear downed
debris from the 2001 Darby Fire to protect nearby communities, Snyder
said, they borrowed $780,000 last year from the regional Forest
Service office in Vallejo to complete the project.

Stanislaus officials have until Sept. 30, 2005, to pay back the loan,
Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn said.
About 35 percent of the loan money won't be spent and can be returned
to the regional office, Snyder said, and the Forest Service is
counting on future salvage sales funds to repay the rest. However,
salvage sales usually do not turn a profit - they simply cover Forest
Service costs.
The debt left the forest without money to clear burned wood and debris
this year.
The news didn't sit well with some in the audience. 
Chris Conrad, a Sierra Pacific Industries forester at the Standard
mill, criticized Groveland District Ranger John Swanson for not
knowing how much potentially marketable timber would be left to decay.
Commented Swanson after the meeting: "Why go look at something you're
never going to have the money to deal with anyway?"

Comment by poster: This is the National Forest where I live. The
Stanislaus NF has always harvested less timber than their northerly
counterparts. Part of it is growing conditions, bigger fires (the
Groveland RD has had some huge fires in the last 40 years) and such
but, I think that it's proximity to Yosemite causes it to be more in
the spotlight than Forests like the Lassen or the Shasta-Trinity. Like
most of the Sierra, forests are overstocked with weedy and flammable
firs and incense cedar underneath the remaining pines. Throw in some
ample manzanita and bear clover and you have the typical Sierra stand.

Competition within the agency for funds continues to accelerate. The
funding system that allows fire suppression to take away money from
fuels reduction projects (and other important maintenance projects in
the forest) has to be changed. Luckily for us, TEAMS isn't dependent
on Congressional funding.... we got our OWN money! <G>



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