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THE FOREST SERVICE FOLLIES
John Skow
March 14, 1988
In Alaska, as in the Lower 48, the U.S. Forest Service is turning the timberlands it is supposed to reserve and protect into mismanaged tree factories
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March 14, 1988

The Forest Service Follies

In Alaska, as in the Lower 48, the U.S. Forest Service is turning the timberlands it is supposed to reserve and protect into mismanaged tree factories

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Of course not. Otherwise they would lose the money. In fact, because the Alaska Pulp Co. claims it has lost money over the last few years, it is suing the federal government for more than $80 million. Alaska Pulp wants to be reimbursed.

Now you're going to tell me there's an excuse.

What? Sorry, you've lost me.

There's always an excuse. You know, the good reason that makes all this craziness sensible.

Oh, sure. The Forest Service is very big on what it calls "community stability." What it means by that is jobs for loggers. Southeast Alaska used to have about 3,000 logging jobs, but now, in a sagging local pulp market, the number is down to 1,800 or so, despite the subsidies. The Forest Service provides—directly or indirectly—about 1,400 of those jobs, each of which, the Wilderness Society once figured, costs the taxpayers $36,000 a year. But that figure is probably low.

Most of these are five-month-a-year jobs, right?

Well, it snows quite a lot the rest of the time.

So with the same $36,000, you could send each lumberjack on a round-the-world cruise every year, American plan, or buy him a new pickup truck and a snowmobile.

Why not?

Wait a minute. Do these figures include the people the Forest Service itself employs?

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