Friday, May 15, 2015
The largest potential economic impacts to communities from timber sale lawsuits come in the form of lost jobs, labor income and federal, state and local taxes, according to a study by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
The report was paid for by an agency that often has to defend itself against timber sale lawsuits, the U.S. Forest Service, and a pro-timber industry coalition, the Montana Forest Products Retention Roundtable.
It was conducted by BBER director of forest industry research Todd Morgan and director of survey research John Baldridge.
The report provides information on government costs and other impacts associated with lawsuits filed against timber sales in the Northern Region of the Forest Service.
Information came from the Forest Service, and from a case study of the Spotted Bear River project on the Flathead National Forest.
The study found that litigation involving the Spotted Bear project cost the Forest Service about $95,000 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service $4,500.
Morgan found that, hypothetically, the economic impacts of litigation – had the Forest Service not prevailed in court – could have exceeded $10 million and cost 130 jobs for the state’s forest products industry and local communities.
From 2008 to 2013, the Northern Region had more than 70 timber projects litigated, more than any other Forest Service region.
Recently, litigation has encumbered 40 percent to 50 percent of the Northern Region’s planned timber harvest volume and treatment acres.
Litigation on the Spotted Bear project alone took up more than a quarter of the Flathead National Forest’s fiscal year 2013 timber program. From June 2012 to June 2013, 54 percent of the timber sale volume in the Northern Region and 64 percent of the acreage (35,485 acres) were litigated.
The estimated financial impact of litigation-encumbered timber volume on the Northern Region’s congressionally appropriated timber program budget was $9.8 million in 2013 and $6.8 million in 2014.