Response to The Wilderness Society Questions by Linda Blum


Louis Blumberg asked the following questions after the 1/15/97 meeting:

• Do you [QLG] have an estimate for the volume of logging that would be done annually if the bill were enacted?

Yes, there are a couple different volume estimates, representing two different estimates of average timber volume per acre. The overall program is expected to produce between 200 and 400 million board feet per year, depending on the assumptions used. Foresters within the QLG are estimating an overall average of 5-6 thousand board feet per acre (mbf/ac), noting that eastside stands might produce as little as 2-3 mbf/ac while denser westside mixed conifer stands will probably have outputs of 8-10 mbf/ac.

• Would the volume be limited to the top number estimated in the CASPO EA?

The short answer to this question is “no,” but the short answer is also woefully inadequate for making a judgment. For one thing, volume alone is too one-dimensional to be a meaningful indicator of environmental effects. Second, the “top number estimated in the CASPO EA is a very interesting and revealing figure, and one that points to constraints other than spotted owl restrictions as the determining factors of the size of the Forest Service's timber sale program.

Better - fairer and more realistic - comparisons would be made between the original forest plans' ASQ numbers and the projected harvest volume figures for Alternative 1 of the CASPO EA (1993), since Alternative 1 was the “no action, continue forest plan implementation” scenario. [1] Table 13B on page 265 of the CASPO Report [2] presents the ASQs of the original round of forest plans, while Figure 3 on page IV-33 of the CASPO EA presents projected harvest volumes for the three alternatives analyzed in the CASPO EA.

First a general perspective on the relative impacts of budgetary and environmental influences on the Sierran Forests' timber sale programs. The total ASQ for the seven western slope Sierran national forests was 914 MMBF in the original forest plans. The Forest Service considers these the main California spotted owl national forests in the Sierra Nevada. This seven-Forest aggregate ASQ was smaller than the timber harvest volumes of the 1980s — the Lassen National Forest alone dropped 44% with the adoption of its Forest Plan in 1992. [3] So even prior to the advent of CASPO, the sale program volumes were dropping with the adoption of Forest Plans and, in 1991 and 1992, agency budget cuts and the institution of the so-called Cumulative Effects Analysis (CEA) process

Then federal government downsizing began to affect national forest staffing levels. The total projected harvest volumes (green and salvage) for all seven forests for FY93 was 674.6 MMBF, and for FY94 was 610.0 MMBF. These projected volumes represented 74% and 67%, respectively, of the forest plans' ASQs even though they reflect only budgetary constraints on the green sale program. [4], [5] If it were not for the fact that so much budgetarily unconstrained salvage volume was offered — 58% of the FY93 program and 36% of the FY94 program — it seems likely that the budget-driven dropoff in sale volumes would have been more dramatic.

Harvest Volumes from Forest Plans (in MMBF) [6]

National Forest Clearcut Seed Tree/
Other ASQ
All 7 Forests 402.1 261.6 250.3 914.0
Lassen 40.6 23.5 31.9 96.0
Plumas 144.2 31.3 90.0 265.5
Lassen+Plumas 184.8 54.8 121.9 361.5

Only the ASQ volumes in this table are of importance for the first issue discussed below, which essentially examines the differences between forest plans and the implementations of their timber sale programs. Later I hope to use the logging type numbers to compare other measures of environmental effects from the QLG and USFS management programs. Ultimately I am trying to build a case for the fairest, most accurate comparison between the Quincy Library Group's and the CASPO interim guidelines' timber harvest levels on the Lassen and Plumas National Forests.

FY93 Projected Timber Harvest Volumes for CASPO EA Alternative 1 (in MMBF) [7]

National Forest Green Volume Salvage Volume Total Volume
All 7 Forests 280.6 394.0 674.6
Lassen 24.0 74.0 98.0
Plumas 44.6 37.0 81.6
Lassen+Plumas 68.6 111.0 179.6

FY94 Projected Timber Harvest Volumes for CASPO EA Alternative 1 (in MMBF) [8]

National Forest Green Volume Salvage Volume Total Volume
All 7 Forests 392.0 218.0 610.0
Lassen 46.0 38.0 84.0
Plumas 44.6 37.0 81.6
Lassen+Plumas 90.6 75.0 165.6

Comparisons Between Forest Plan ASQs and Budget-Constrained

Forest Plan Harvest Levels

Projected for FY93 and FY94

National Forest Forest Plan
Alt.1 FY93
% of Forest
Plan ASQ
Alt.1 FY94
% of Forest
Plan ASQ
All 7 Forests 914.0 674.6 73.8% 610.0 66.7%
Lassen 96.0 98.0 102.1% 84.0 87.5%
Plumas 265.5 81.6 30.7% 81.6 30.7%
Lassen+Plumas 361.5 179.6 49.7% 165.6 45.8%

In the last several years, people either credited or blamed environmental restrictions for the decline in public lands timber harvests, the determination of whether the attribute was positive or negative being affected by one's point of view and purpose. But regardless of which political side was weighing in, the numbers compared have always seemed to be incongruous. The pre-CASPO, Forest Plan ASQ level of 914 MMBF was held up against the FY94, CASPO-alternative volume projection of 428 MMBF

Drawing comparisons between the forest plan ASQ volumes and the projected FY93 and FY94 harvest levels for CASPO Alternative 1 reveals that budget cutbacks accounted for reductions in timber sale volumes by 26% and 33% in FY93 and FY94 for the seven Sierran forests overall. But the impacts were much different for the individual national forests. Where the Lassen NF didn't appear to be affected in FY93, the Plumas NF's sale program was expected to decrease by 69% from the annual average harvest level in its forest plan.

For the Lassen and Plumas National Forests combined, budget constraints on the forest plans' green programs were projected to result in achievement of only 50% and 46% of the ASQ in FY93 and FY94, respectively.

The CASPO EA presents “cautionary information about interpretation of volume and acreages” beginning on page IV-31; with those precautions in mind, it is fair to act upon the statement therein, that “estimated proportional differences between alternatives should be accurate enough to allow the decision-maker to make a reasoned choice.”

Now that the proportional differences between forest plan volume projections and budget-constrained implementation of those plans have been established through the comparison of forest plan and budget-constrained plan implementation volumes, it is reasonable to extrapolate what timber volume outputs CASPO implementation might have produced if it had not been “budgetarily constrained.” The `unconstrained CASPO' volumes are the most comparable volume projections against which QLG volume estimates should be evaluated.

To construct a non-budget-constrained CASPO volume projection, the changes in the green sale programs


[1]USDA Forest Service. 1993. California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines Environmental Assessment. Pacific Southwest Region. January 1993. Page III-1. (a.k.a. CASPO EA)

[2]Verner, Jared et al., Technical Coordinators. 1992. The California spotted owl: a technical assessment of its current status. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-133. Albany, CA.

[3]The 1992 Forest Plan's ASQ is 96 MMBF, down from a 1982 ASQ of 171 MMBF. (Personal communication with Steve Evans, Friends of the River, Sacramento)

[4]CASPO EA, page IV-32, “Information on how the volume figures were obtained.”

[5]It should be noted that the CASPO EA seems to use the terms timber harvest volume and timber sale program volume interchangeably. In January 1993, the CASPO EA contained Figure 3, which purports to be timber harvest volumes for logging which had not yet occurred. For the present purpose, the terms are reasonably comparable. Distinctions will be drawn between them in a different issue discussion later. I would like to be as clear as possible!

[6]CASPO Report, Table 13B, p.265.

[7]CASPO EA, Figure 3, page IV-33.

[8]CASPO EA, Figure 3, page IV-33.


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