Logging Mandates Defy Supply and Demand

by lizard

As young people, we are told surface-level narratives explaining how complex systems work. With the economy, it’s a story about supply and demand, a fairy-tale that things called competitive markets exist, and through the competing forces of supply and demand, equilibrium settles in. The way this is managed seems so simple:

If demand increases and supply remains unchanged, a shortage occurs, leading to a higher equilibrium price.

If demand decreases and supply remains unchanged, a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price.

If demand remains unchanged and supply increases, a surplus occurs, leading to a lower equilibrium price.

If demand remains unchanged and supply decreases, a shortage occurs, leading to a higher equilibrium price.

Supply and demand are not the factors to be taking into consideration if we’re talking about logging, and the bipartisan support among Montana’s representatives for logging mandates entangled in the timber industry gift-packaging. At the beginning of this month, Jon Tester was “feeling better” about Conrad Burns Steve Daines’ support:

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s long-stalled forest bill, which would newly designate acreage for both wilderness and logging in three Montana forests, could be finding some new momentum, the senator and bill supporters say.

“I feel better now about its position than I ever have in the past, and significantly better,” Tester, a Democrat, said in an interview late last week.

He said there’s a growing understanding in Congress not only about his bill, but also that something needs to be done to improve forest management in the West.

Tester and the bill’s supporters, which include timber-mill owners, wilderness advocates and scores of recreation businesses, also are hoping a new player in the political mix – Republican Congressman Steve Daines – might provide a bipartisan push that’s been missing.

Three weeks later, the White House is threatening to veto the hot mess coming from the House because the reality of the bill is coming into focus:

In response to fires that have ravaged the West this year, the House on Friday approved a bill that would expand logging in national forests despite a White House veto threat.

The measure, which would impose limits on environmental reviews to speed timber-cutting projects, was approved by the Republican-controlled House, 244-173, on a largely party-line vote.

The bill would more than double timber harvest levels nationwide to roughly 6 billion board feet of timber for sale each year, up from the average of 2.5 billion board feet sold annually in recent years.

That legislation is being proposed to increase supply, outside the forces of demand, that’s a problem. That Steve/Jon/Max all hold hands and skip along, that’s a problem as well.

This legislative push is trying to capitalize on another intense fire season. It’s cynical, short-term job-whoring for special interests, and it’s bad policy.

That Tester has kept this torch burning after snuffing Conrad Burns should not go unmentioned.

Meanwhile, climate change only gets a brief mention by Obama at the UN, and hardly anyone is discussing what’s happening in Japan.

We are in serious trouble.

  1. Big Swede

    Obama did miss an opportunity to discuss climate change at the UN.

    Apparently expanding ice caps are of no concern.


    • larry kurtz

      Swede: yer an idiot.

      Restoring western forests to conditions before humans began manipulating them 10,000 years ago is essential to protecting them. Matt Koehler ignores that.

      • Big Swede

        Did cavemen have smoke jumpers?

      • Huh, Larry? Fact is I think restoring forests and watersheds by removing impediments to naturally functioning ecosystems is essential, a great idea and would produce a boat-load of jobs in rural communities throughout the west. In fact, we’ve advocated such an approach for the past 15 years. Here are some of our thoughts:


        I also don’t believe that all forest ecosystems in the current United States were manipulated by humans in the same manner or to the same extent. Sure, Larry, in your Black Hills, SD ponderosa pine-dominated part of the world indigenous people have been manipulating the forests for thousands of years. But most of the forests in the western US aren’t ponderosa pine forests, and many forest ecosystems never saw the historic human impacts your corner of the world did. Furthermore, using only ponderosa pine forest ecosystems as a case-in-point to talk about the health of America’s national forests is irresponsible and misguided for a number of other reasons as well.

        In Montana ponderosa pine forests make up a very small percentage of Montana’s entire forest ecosystem anyway, about 8% in total. And most all of the old-growth ponderosa pine forests in our region were cut down and sent to the timber mills, or copper mines, a long time ago. So too, these ponderosa pine forests typically existed near the valley bottoms and in lower elevations, meaning that many ponderosa pine forests were cut down and replaced with towns, farms, neighborhoods, etc.

        As you know, the vast majority of Montana’s forested landscape is dominated by a mix-conifer forest type, including Douglas-fir, sub-alpine fir, Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine trees. These forest types have a dramatically different life-cycles and are impacted by wildfire in much different ways than forests of ponderosa pine.

        But, back to discussion and debate about mandated national forest logging, ok?

      • JC

        You want a “natural” forest, let natural processes take precedence. A managed forest is anything but a natural forest. “Natural” is in the eyes of the beholder.

        10,000 years ago fire and ice reigned. You want “natural,” let fire take its rightful place in the process and get homes the hell out of the woods.

        • Big Swede

          Couldn’t you say your home site once laid in woodlands?

        • mike

          Kind of shows your ignorance of all things forestry related. I will agree that people should not build in areas that are prone to fire.

          Timber is a renewable resource when used wisely, the problem is obstructionists like country club Matt have made a very good living being obstructionist and you progtards can’t look at it objectively. It shows your hypocritical nature. You tout sustainability (good idea) yet rail against any forest management which when done right IS sustainable.

          My take is that progtards like you are against any activity that results in SOMEone making money. You know, that 1 per cent arguement. Let’s keep it real, guys like Matt have destroyed thousands of good paying jobs in Montana and my guess is a large increase in motel maids won’t take up the slack.

          • lizard19

            tell me, mike, why exactly did our economy tank 5 years ago?

          • Matthew Koehler

            Hello Mike. Let’s get a few facts straight. I’ve worked on forest policy issues for about 18 years. In one of those 18 years I managed to make a wage of about $30,000. The rest of the 17 years I’ve made less than that, in some cases considerably less. If that qualifies me as a “country clubber” that has “made a very good living being an obstructionist” in your book, so be it.

            So let me ask you a question Mike. Do you think it’s a good idea for Congress to undermine America’s public lands legacy by mandating dramatic increases in industrial logging by exempting National Forest logging sales up to 15.6 square miles in size (10,000 acres) from public input, environmental analysis and gutting the Endangered Species Act? Will such legislation get America closer to your stated goal of “sustainable forest management?” Or, perhaps, is opposing the House GOP effort to pass this bill the prudent stance that will lead to more “sustainable forest management?” Thanks.

    • JC

      Can you say: “reversion to the mean” and understand what it means? No, didn’t think so…

  2. The bottom line is that Rep Daines mandated logging bill – the so-called “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act” – undermines America’s public lands legacy by mandating dramatic increases in industrial logging by exempting National Forest logging sales up to 15.6 square miles in size from public input, environmental analysis and gutting the Endangered Species Act. The bill also has the US Congress simply closing the US Federal Court House doors, forbidding any citizen lawsuits on certain types of industrial logging projects, which is inherently undemocratic.

    Here are some specifics about Daines’ “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act:”

    • Creates a legally-binding public lands logging mandate with no environmental or fiscal feasibility limits, and reestablishing the discredited 25% logging revenue sharing system with counties that was eliminated over a decade ago.

    • Public participation and Endangered Species Act protections would be severely limited in Rep Daines bill. The bill creates huge loopholes in NEPA and such biased ESA requirements that in practice these laws would almost never meaningfully apply. For example, any project less than 10,000 acres (that’s 15.6 square miles) would be categorically excluded from environmental analysis and public participation, and the Forest Service would be required to submit a finding that endangered species are not jeopardized by any project, regardless of its actual effect on the species.

    • Rep Daines successfully attached an amendment to the bill that would forbid the US Federal Courts from ever issuing injunctions against Forest Service logging projects based on alleged violations of procedural requirements in selecting, planning, or analyzing the project.

    • Another amendment added to the bill has the US Congress closing the US Federal Court House doors for any national forest timber sale resulting from the 2013 wildfires. Essentially this results in “Logging Without Laws,” as one entire branch of the US Government (the Judicial branch) is forbidden from examining this issue.

    If you’d like more “policy-wonky” information about Daines’ mandated logging bill check out this fact sheet put together by EarthJustice, Sierra Club and others.

    Click to access Conservation-Community-Fact-Sheet-Oppose-H.R.-1526-FINAL-9-17-13.pdf

    Certainly it doesn’t help the political situation that Sen Tester, Sen Baucus and groups like the Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation and Montana Trout Unlimited also support politicians mandating huge logging increases of our National Forests through Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA). Make no mistake, both the Daines and Tester bill would be an extreme and radical departure from over 100 years of America’s public lands legacy.

    Remember, Montanans have been bombarded since 2009 with a million dollar plus advertising and public relations campaign supporting Tester’s mandated logging bill paid for largely by the out-of-state Pew Foundation.

    According to Guidestar, as far back as 2009 the Pew Foundation actually hired the Montana Wilderness Association as an “Independent Contractor” to the tune of $304,500.00 in just 2009 alone. We’ve also witnessed one-sided, down and pony show “public meetings” on Tester’s bill in which only hand-picked supporters of Tester’s bill were allowed to speak to the crowd. And who hasn’t noticed the dozens of canned, scripted Letters to the Editor (most of which from college students without a firm grasp on these issues) cheerleading for Congress to mandate more logging through Tester’s bill?

    Let’s also not forget that all summer long we watched the Montana Wilderness Association spend some of their money on an Ad campaign making Rep Steve Daines (a “Tea Party” member of the House) out to be some great “bi-partisian” and encouraging Daines to work together with Senator Tester and Senator Baucus to support Tester’s mandated logging bill. Honestly, how good of a strategy is it to publicly encourage a “Tea Party” member of the US House to work together to support mandated logging of our public national forest lands? How naive must you be to actually think that getting Rep Daines involved with Tester’s mandated logging bill wouldn’t actually make Tester’s bill that much worse?

    While the Montana Wilderness Association was busy all summer courting Rep Daines to be their new BFF not one single person from the Montana Wilderness Association (or any of the other environmental ‘collaborators’ supporting Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill) managed to uttered one single peep of protest, concern or opposition about Rep Daines’ very own mandated logging bill, which cuts the public process, NEPA analysis and effectivness of the ESA.

    And what about the Montana Wilderness Association’s “timber mill partners” from their much lauded private “collaboration?” Do you think the Montana timber industry supports Rep Daines mandated logging bill? Of course they do! And one can assume the timber industry has no problem dropping Montana Wilderness Association like a bad habitat once the industry gets what they really wanted in the form of Rep Daines mandated logging bill.

    In December 2009, as I sat in the US Senate’s Energy and Natural Resource’s Committee hearing room, I heard Montana Wilderness Association’s director Tim Baker (who is now Gov Bullock’s “Natural Resource Adviser”) tell the Committee that MWA wouldn’t support Tester’s bill is the logging mandates were removed. So too, Sun Mountain Lumber owner Sherm Anderson told the Committee the timber industry wouldn’t support Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill without the Wilderness acres. Well, looks to me like Montana’s timber industry has dumped MWA in front of Daines’ mandated logging bus. All is fair in love and war, I guess.

    Once again, the bottom line is that Rep Daines and Sen Tester want to forever change the way America’s National Forests are managed by simply having politicians mandate dramatic increases in National Forest logging levels at a time when US lumber consumption is down nearly 50%.

    Both Rep Daines and Sen Tester claim gridlock prevents National Forest logging, but between 2008 and 2012 the US Forest Service sold enough logging sales in Montana and North Idaho to fill over 239,000 logging trucks, which if lined up end-to-end, would stretch for 2,048 miles.

    In theory the US Senate should be against mandating huge increases in National Forest logging through “Logging Without Laws.” gutting the Endangered Species Act, limiting public input and environmental analysis. However, the fact that Senator Tester and Senator Baucus have been pushing their very own mandated National Forest logging bill (the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act) all bets are off and anything can happen in the Senate.

    Senator Wyden (D-OR) is also a huge wildcard on this issue. Daines mandated logging bill that passed the House included a separate provision that would effectively privatize 1.6 million acres of public forestland in western Oregon and transfer this public land into a “logging trust,” which would be logged (including clearcut) into perpetuity. Word is that Sen. Wyden is currently considering introducing his own bill that will likely increase logging on public lands in western Oregon, which would be in addition to the mandated logging in Daines’ bill, which would apply to all 155 National Forests in the U.S.

    So, that’s what new in public lands forest policy news. Hate to say it Montana Wilderness Association ‘collaborators’….but we warned you and told you so. Thanks for not listening to all the public lands policy experts who warned you and for helping play a role in the unraveling of America’s public lands legacy. Collect your fat Pew paychecks on the way out, please. And good luck getting yourself unwrapped from the axle of Daines mandated logging bill. Turns out the Montana Wilderness Association has a much bigger and badder tiger by the tail and just…can’t…let…go.

    • larry kurtz

      Do you believe it’s relevant and is there a way to separate the way forests in the Missouri and Columbia basins are managed, Matthew?

    • mike

      That means ignoring YOUR input Matt, this stupid shit is a direct result of your obtstructionism,,,own it , quit pussy footing

  3. As long as there’s a demand for timber people will cut down trees. If money’s involved they’ll cut ’em down until they’re gone. Didn’t Dr. Seuss teach us that?

  4. lizard19

    here is a Bloomberg article from July about lumber prices.

    Lumber futures rallied to a seven-week high on speculation that North American mills are slowing output as demand increases from home builders in the U.S. and China.

    Some sawmills announced plans in June and July to reduce output, while exports from the U.S. jumped 7 percent in May from April, including a 34 percent increase to China, according to Hakan Ekstrom, the president of industry researcher Wood Resources International. U.S. builders started work on new homes at a 914,000 annual rate in May, up 29 percent from a year earlier, government data show.

    translation: supply and demand can be manipulated so that high-rolling gamblers on wall street can make more money from a financial system they have completely corrupted.

  5. Matthew Koehler

    Great point there Liz.

    One of the pretty much unknown, and therefore never talked about, ways Senator Tester already helped the timber industry with such “gambling” was in 2008 or 2009 when he successfully attached a provision to a bill that allowed the timber industry to hold onto US Forest Service timber sale contracts twice as long as was allowed previously.

    I can’t recall the specifics off the top of my head, but, for example, a company holding a timber sale contract to log public National Forests would get 8 years to complete the project instead of 4. Senate ENR Committee staffers raised concerns that Tester’s provision essentially created a mini “futures’ market of our public National Forests, and I agree.

    The other irony is that almost daily we have the timber industry, Tester, Daines and others complaining that “gridlock” is preventing any logging or fuel reduction work and here the timber industry gets Tester to allow them more time to sit on public lands timber sale contracts for years and simply roll the dice for better lumber prices.

    Oh, and another way to look at builders starting work on new homes at a 914,000 annual rate in May, is that back in 2006 America was building homes at an annual rate of approximately 2,220,000. During much of the 2000s, the rate was 1.75 million to 2.2 million. So the current rate can be viewed as about 41% of the peak rate, or about 50% the rate during the 2000s.

    • lizard19

      interesting. it’s like when you peel back the layers of a politician, you find scams within cons within horse-shit.

      • JC

        You know what they say about peeling back the onion, don’t you? Keep peeling and all you ever find is more fucking onion!

        • lizard19

          I will not peel them on a train
          I will not peel them on a plane
          I do not like the tears they make
          nor Senators who are on the take
          I will not peel them, Steve and Jon
          these fucking onions all night long

  6. The Fed floods cheap fiat money into the stalled economy to boost consumption in what? What hasn’t “recovered?” The banking/real estate/home construction/lumber industry complex continues to lag behind relative to other sectors also hit hard by the depression.

    Banks use capital to speculate on futures in lumber, homes and politicians — all commodity costs of doing business. An oversupply of lumber works like the Fed’s cheap money.

    Corrupt politicians will do anything to keep those big campaign contributions rolling in from Wall Street banks and K Street lobbyists representing the lumber, real estate and homebuilding industries. Now it’s their turn to milk the U.S. Treasury.

    But not until the “defense” industry is made whole again. Open your wallets boys and girls, these industries are flat broke. Federal subsidies create profit for elite investors where there is none.

    We’re building a better bubble. Many thanks to Jon, Max, and The Rookie. Any and all “bipartisan” votes spell trouble. Boom and bust, same as it ever was.

  7. Matthew Koehler

    Here’s some new information to consider:

    In Montana, it’s estimated that Rep Daines mandated logging bill would result in (compared with 2012 timber sale numbers):

    • 300 X’s more logging on the Helena National Forest;
    • 150 X’s more logging on the Lewis and Clark National Forest;
    • 13 X’s more logging on the Lolo National Forest;
    • 7 X’s more logging on the Gallatin National Forest;
    • 30 X’s more logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest;
    • 6 X’s more logging on the Kootenai National Forest; and
    • 4 X’s more logging on the Flathead National Forest.

    These dramatic increases in logging would be achieved by undermining America’s public lands legacy by simply having members of Congress mandate dramatic increases in industrial logging by exempting all National Forest logging sales up to 15.6 square miles in size from public input, environmental analysis and gutting the Endangered Species Act. Daines’ bill also has the US Congress simply closing the US Federal Court House doors, forbidding any citizen lawsuits on certain types of industrial logging projects, which is inherently undemocratic. Daines’ bill applies to all of America’s 155 National Forests, not just those in Montana.

    Please speak out against Congress simply mandating more logging on America’s National Forests by gutting our nation’s laws and regulations. Thank you!


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