Rejuvinated forest stand after the 2014 Whites Fire burned at low intensity. Photo by Kimberly Baker.
Klamath National Forest to subsidize clear cut logging by charging approximately $2.00 per log truck load
On Thursday, May 5, the Klamath National Forest is set to auction away critically important forests for pennies on the dollar. The agency will accept sealed bids on two Westside Project timber sales, Whites and Middle Creek, for the lowest price in recent memory. At $.50 per thousand board feet, a full log truck would be valued less than a cup of coffee. The auction comes amid protests delaying operations and an active lawsuit challenging the post-fire logging project.
“There is no other way of looking at this, Klamath National Forest is giving away our public forests,” said Kimberly Baker of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “The public and future generations will pay the real cost, including lost wildlife and even more dangerous fire conditions.”
Because of the rock-bottom prices, Klamath National Forest will lose money on the sale—it will cost more for the agency to issue the sale than will return in revenue. In effect, taxpayers will subsidize private timber companies to log on public land above critically important salmon streams in the Klamath Watershed and remove northern spotted owl habitat. At 50 cents per thousand board feet, the agency cannot cover the costs incurred in cleaning up residual debris or “slash” after logging operations, necessitating that taxpayers bear the burden.
“The Klamath National Forest is selling old-growth trees to their buddies in the timber industry for $2 a log truck load,” said George Sexton, Conservation Director at the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “That doesn’t even cover the cost of cup of coffee the Forest Supervisor sips while she signs the decision to clear cut our public lands.”
To date, four of 14 timber sales that comprise the controversial Westside Project have been awarded for prices ranging between as low as $6.00 per thousand board feet, once thought to be record low prices for public land timber sales. Siskiyou Cascade Natural Resources, who purchased two of the sales, started logging and hauling last week, before legal claims can be adequately heard in court.
“Klamath salmon and clean rivers are worth much more than this,” said Kerul Dyer of Klamath Riverkeeper. “The Forest Service has no business liquidating forests for the timber industry – especially when the deals will degrade water quality in the Klamath River and its important tributaries.”
The record low prices come at an extreme ecological cost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projected that the Westside Project may result in the “take” of up to 103 Northern Spotted Owls—as many as two percent of the species of owls listed under the Endangered Species Act for protection. Logging on steep slopes above tributaries in the Klamath River will also increase sediment pollution, and could result in a local extinction of Klamath coho salmon according to the Karuk Tribe’s Fisheries Department.
“We could have had an economically viable project had the Klamath National Forest worked with, instead of against, the Karuk Tribe,” said Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe. “The Karuk Tribe submitted a plan, with support from the conservation community, to the Forest Service that would have produced revenue for the local economy and protected the environment. These giveaways have shown the Forest Service’s true intentions: subsidizing big timber interests.”
The Plaintiffs are taking their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to seek an emergency stay and preserve the status quo while legal questions can be resolved.