September 26, 2001

TO:  Chair, LA Society of American Foresters

Re:  A Case for Support of the Kisatchie National Forest Timber Program

The National Forests of the South are in a state of gridlock due to lawsuits filed by various environmental groups.  These lawsuits have been meticulously designed to hold up timber sales on the Forests of the Southern Region.  The latest, filed in the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, against the Regional Forester, Elizabeth Estill,, claims that the National Forests in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana are attempting to evade wildlife monitoring requirements with amendments or revisions to their Forest Plans.

The truth is that these groups have systematically achieved decisions from the Courts and from Forest Service actions that incrementally increase the amount and kind of monitoring that is required before every timber sale on National Forest lands.  Interpretation of the Regulations pertaining to monitoring of wildlife and proposed, endangered, threatened, or sensitive (PETS) species has become so narrow that these groups feel that plant and wildlife species within the sale area must be physically counted before a single tree can be cut.  And they have convinced the Courts of this.

Using these court decisions and Forest Service actions, the environmental groups have stopped all timber sales on a large number of National Forests, including the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana.  The effects on other Forests has been devastating.  Kentucky lost almost all of its pine forests due to Southern Pine Beetle epidemics that went unchecked.  Alabama is currently experiencing the same fate.  The Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas had to wait 6 months before it could start salvaging timber damaged in a December ice storm, and most of what was left by that time was too deteriorated to use.  The Kisatchie is quickly heading in the same direction.  Approximately 128 acres of damaged pine timber on the Winn Ranger District has not been salvaged due to extensive and excessive research to determine if the environment would be significantly affected by removal of that timber.  And thousands upon thousands of acres of young pine plantations regenerated after the massive SPB epidemic of 1985-86 are currently standing idle as the debate rages on whether or not they should be thinned or left in a "natural" state.

The Society of American Foresters should support the use of timber management practices, including commercial timber sales, on Kisatchie National Forest lands in order to reach the goals of the Forest Plan.  Although this forest is only 8% of Louisiana's forested acres, the effects of no timber management on these 620,000 acres can become devastating to private landowners from the buildup of insect populations, stand-destroying wildfires which cannot be controlled at the boundary line, and loss of the economic benefits of sale of timber.  To show support for timber management on the Kisatchie, please consider approval of the proposed Policy Statement included herein.

Signed,
Forestry Friends of Kisatchie






THE ROLE OF COMMERCIAL TIMBER HARVESTING
IN FOREST MANAGEMENT ON THE KISATCHIE NATIONAL FOREST

POSITION

The Louisiana Society of American Foresters supports the use of timber management, including commercial timber harvesting, on Kisatchie National Forest lands in order to achieve the desired goals and objectives of the Forest Plan. 

ISSUE STATEMENT

The National Forests of the South are in a state of gridlock due to lawsuits filed by various environmental groups.  These lawsuits have been meticulously designed to hold up timber sales on the Forests of the Southern Region.  These groups have systematically achieved decisions from the Courts and from Forest Service actions that incrementally increase the amount and kind of monitoring that is required before every timber sale on National Forest lands.  These groups feel that plant and wildlife species within the sale area must be physically counted before a single tree can be cut.  And they have convinced the Courts of this.

Using these court decisions and Forest Service actions, the environmental groups have stopped all timber sales on a large number of National Forests, including the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana.  The effect of no timber harvesting on southern forests, especially the highly productive Kisatchie, is a large number of overstocked, stressed stands of timber susceptible to insects, disease and wildfire.

BACKGROUND

The Kisatchie National Forest has been under a forest management routine for its entire 71 year history.  The forest has been planted and harvested, roads have been constructed, recreationists have used it for hunting, camping, and hiking.

Today the Kisatchie is a healthy, vibrant forest with one of the nations' largest populations of Redcockaded Woodpeckers (an endangered species), Louisiana Pearlshell Mussels (a threatened species), and pitcher plant bogs (a rare ecosystem containing sensitive plants).

The Kisatchie has huntable populations of deer, squirrel, and turkey. It is also home to bobcats, panthers, numerous songbirds, and fish.

All of these abundant resources were made possible by timber management programs prescribed and implemented by professional foresters

Now, when the forest is at its peak production, laypersons who do not adhere to the proven principals of forest management want to stop all production and preserve the forest in its "natural" state.  These laypersons have been successful in filing appeals and lawsuits which are designed to delay, reverse, and eliminate timber harvest plans.  They have used the process of public input required by law and extended by the Forest Service to find technicalities and narrow interpretations of the Regulations that create insurmountable analysis and survey requirements, effectively shutting down the timber sales program on the southern forests.


Responsible commercial timber harvests benefit wildlife, recreation, forest health, and the economics of local communities by providing jobs and revenue.  Precluding commercial harvesting increases the need to subsidize forest protection, restoration programs, and returns to states with appropriated funding from the National Treasury.  Uncertainty of timber sale offerings by the National Forests creates skepticism and  distrust within the wood products industry, making the few sales offered less attractive to potential buyers.

CONCLUSION

The Louisiana Society of American Foresters supports the use of proven forest management practices on the Kisatchie National Forest, including commercial timber harvesting consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to achieve the objectives of the Forest Plan.  The LA SAF encourages the Forest Supervisor to prepare enough project plans annually to sustain an effective timber sale program which facilitates improving the health, viability, and economic well-being of the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana.

ABOUT THE SOCIETY

Gifford Pinchot and six other pioneer foresters founded the Society of American Foresters in 1900.  The Society, with about 18,000 members, is the national organization representing the forestry profession.  The Louisiana Society of American Foresters, with about 600 members, represents all segments of the profession in the State.