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National Forest Management

July 09, 1985

The opinions expressed on national forest management by Ernest Furgurson (Editorial Pages, June 18) are not supported by the facts, nor are the statements of various environmental groups that are the basis for the column.

He asserts that "right now the U.S. Forest Service is pushing to expand the sales of timber from national forest lands . . . " when actually there has been no significant increase in timber sales for several years, and the new long-range plans for the national forests in northern Idaho and Montana will reduce timber sales for the next 10 years. After that period, the plans will be reviewed to see if projected harvest increases are needed or are possible. The statement is a gross misrepresentation of the situation.

Environmental groups are attempting to use short-term cash flow as a measure of Forest Service financial performance when that is inappropriate under current law. In reality, the Forest Service now is not able to account for the distribution of costs and benefits attributable to the various multiple uses of the national forests. Until it can, and the agency is working on this, it is premature to make specific judgments regarding the profitability of various programs.

It is interesting that the born-again economists of the environmental groups suddenly are interested in efficient timber management when for years they have lobbied for constraints that create inefficiency.

The Wilderness Society and others continue to perpetuate the myth that the Forest Service is on a road-building binge with the intent to put roads into every potential wilderness area. Again, the facts show otherwise.

In the Northern Region of the Forest Service (northern Idaho and Montana), as well as nationally, the miles of road construction and the dollars spent have trended downward for the past several years. Forest Service plans reveal that only 10% of the unroaded national forest land not recommended for wilderness by the agency will be roaded over the next decade in a region where half of the commercial forest land is undeveloped.

RICHARD G. REID

Missoula, Mont.

Reid is executive vice president of the Inland Forest Resource Council.

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