Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Corporate Welfare in the Forest


The Forest Service is under extreme political pressure to log our national patrimony, whether it makes any economic or ecological sense. A good example of a needless, ecologically damaging, and economically wasteful logging proposal is the proposed $1.4 million Pole Creek post-fire logging sale.

Pole Creek is a good example of privatized profits and socialized costs.

According to the Forest Service, the only purpose for this logging proposal is to provide logs to local mills. Unfortunately, this will cost an estimated $1.4 million to implement, and even subtracting any payment for the timber cut, the service estimates that it could lose as much as $866,000 of taxpayer funds.

Worse, any logging has additional ecological costs that the Forest Service is forced to ignore or downplay.

Forest ecologist Jerry Franklin, as well as many other scientists, has repeatedly stated that there is no ecological benefit to post fire logging. Forests do not need to be logged to be reforested, nor does logging “improve” the recovery. There are, however, ecological costs.

Logging operations can introduce weeds which will need to be controlled forever (another cost borne by taxpayers, not the timber companies). Logging removes snags important for many wildlife species from birds to bats. The proposed logging will cause a decline in snags, and the minimum amount of snags that are proposed to remain will not close this gap, significantly reducing the recruitment of future snags. Removal of larger dead trees known as legacy trees will also reduce the potential for future spotted owl habitat — since dead logs on the ground are home to many wildlife species, including the owls’ prime prey.

Logging removes biomass and the nutrients they hold, which are an investment in the next generation of trees, from pollinating native bees and larger mammals like the Pacific fisher. Though the fire has reduced big-game habitat, logging will only make the losses worse, since retention of snags do provide some security cover. Logging can disturb soils, reducing carbon storage and moisture retention, an important factor for dry eastside forests. Even closed logging roads become vectors for illegal ORV and mountain-bike access. The list of impacts is long.

In addition to facilitating this logging, the Forest Service proposes amending its own forest plan, allowing logging in scenic corridors.

Worse, the justification for this logging project is to create jobs, but we do not need to impoverish the forest to create jobs. The Valdez and Deep Water Horizon oil spills both created jobs, too. Ultimately, that is a loser strategy.

There are dozens of forest projects in need of funding that the $1.4 million could be spent on, which would create local jobs and enhance public lands, including the removal of old logging roads, restoration of trails, weed control, wildlife surveys and many other projects that the Forest Service desperately needs to do.

Even the excuse that we need to cut public forest trees to obtain wood for home construction does not hold up to scrutiny. The vast majority of all timber cut in the U.S. comes off of the more productive private lands.

Even during the heyday of public lands logging in the 1980s and 1990s, less than 4 percent of the nation’s wood came from public lands. Yet this logging is nearly always subsidized by taxpayers, undercutting the profitability of private timber owners, making it more difficult for them to log in sustainable fashion because they must compete against subsidized timber coming off of public lands.

The Pole Creek timber sale is a waste of tax dollars, and has no public benefits. It is corporate welfare. It should be abandoned.

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy.

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
Lara Gardner
Why I’m Not Voting
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017