U.S. Forest Service Chief: 300 million board feet per year in MT is a ‘very reasonable’ goal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell asserted that increasing timber harvests on Montana National Forests to 300 million board feet per year is a “very reasonable” goal.

During today’s Senate Appropriations Interior Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Forest Service budget request for Fiscal Year 2016, Senator Steve Daines pressed Tidwell on the Forest Service’s goals for future timber harvests. In Montana’s National Forests, timber production in FY 2014 was 113 million board feet per year, only half of which were saw logs.

Daines asked Tidwell if increasing timber harvest goals on Montana’s National Forests “between 200 and 300 million board feet” per year would be a reasonable target for the Forest Service.

Tidwell agreed with Daines, confirming that targets at the higher end of that goal would be feasible.

“300 million board feet is very reasonable,” Tidwell stated.

Under Daines’ questioning, Tidwell also agreed with Daines that increasing responsible harvests would not only increase forest-related jobs but also improve the environment and increase recreational opportunities. Further, after Daines shared Forest Service data on the high frequency of appeals, objections and litigation slowing harvests in Montana’s National Forests, Daines secured Tidwell’s commitment to work together to find solutions that would further discourage such obstruction.

Daines recently held forest management reform roundtables in several western Montana communities, where he learned that Montana’s sawmills – most of which are running at two-thirds capacity or less – could easily absorb at least an additional 100 million board feet per year.

“Responsibly increasing harvests in Montana is consistent with forest plans, would create and sustain thousands of timber jobs and will improve the health of our National Forests. It also will help reduce the risk of wildfire and expand recreational opportunities for Montanans,” Daines stated following the hearing. “I’m encouraged that Chief Tidwell agreed with these observations, and I look forward to working with the Forest Service and Montanans to develop commonsense reforms that increase timber harvests, expand economic opportunity for our rural counties and benefit all ten of Montana’s National Forests.

Video of Daines’ exchange with Tidwell is available here.