US FS Misuses National Fire Plan

USA: US Forest Service Misuses National Fire Plan

04 April 2002

CEDAR RIDGE, CA — In the first year of the Bush Administration, the United States Forest
Service inappropriately used National Fire Plan brush reduction funds to plan large timber
sales in the Sierra Nevada, a Report released on April 4th by the John Muir Project (JMP)
revealed. National Fire Plan (NFP) “hazardous fuel reduction” funds, first appropriated in
2001, were supposed to be used to reduce flammable undergrowth—shrubs, weeds,
saplings, and branches—adjacent to forest communities in the West. 
The NFP specifically warned that the funds should not be used for timber sales because
“removal of large, merchantable trees from forests does not decrease fire risk and may, in
fact, increase such risk.” Yet, as JMP’s Report, “Getting Burned by Logging”, documents, the
National Forests in the Sierra Nevada range are instead using the great majority of these
funds to prepare enormous commercial logging projects focused on the removal of mature
trees miles from the nearest towns.
“Until Congress does the right thing and ends the logging program on our National Forests,
we’ll never be able to trust the Forest Service to use funds appropriately”, said Chad
Hanson, executive director of the John Muir Project, which is based in Cedar Ridge near the
Tahoe National Forest. “These timber sales are destroying sensitive wildlife habitat and
increasing the risk of severe fires,” he added.For our full press release, please visit John Muir Project’s web site at or 
Among the Report’s findings are the following:

  • Of all projects funded by the NFP in the Sierra Nevada, 83% are timber sales—not one of
    which focused on the reduction of flammable brush near homes;
  • About 75% of these NFP-funded timber sales focus on the removal of large trees, and 94%
    take place within suitable habitat for imperiled species such as the California spotted owl,Northern goshawk, Pacific fisher, and Bald Eagle;
  • These timber sales are located an average of 6 or 7 miles from the nearest town, while the
    Forest Service’s own science shows that homes can only be protected from fire by reducing
    the flammability of the home itself and its immediate surroundings within at most 100 to 200
  • Based upon the government’s own science, logging increases the incidence and severity of
    wildland fires, creating hotter, drier conditions, and slash debris; 
  • The Forest Service is planning several enormous “salvage logging” timber sales in the
    Sierra, making false claims that the areas to be logged were “destroyed” by fire, while JMP’s
    site inspections and photos (see Report) prove otherwise;
  • In some cases, the Forest Service is using NFP funds for salvage logging;
  • The Forest Service’s own scientific reports show that mature conifers usually survive even
    the most severe burns, though the agency’s timber sale planners are routinely marking live
    trees as “dead” and then salvage logging them (See Stephens and Finney, “Prescribed Fire
  • Mortality of Sierra Nevada Mixed Conifer Tree Species”, in press in Forest Ecology and Management (even at 85% to 90% crown scorch, most 20-inch diameter conifers survived));

At least two of these timber sales involved logging in roadless areas; and Most of the offending timber sales occurred on the Plumas and Lassen National Forests pursuant to the “Quincy Library Group” (“QLG”) logging plan, which applies to those forests (the lion’s share of the logging contracts are being awarded to timber industry giant Sierra
Pacific Industries). 
JMP’s report expressed particular concern about continuing abuse of National Fire Plan
monies under the Bush Administration in light of the fact that Administration officials have
indicated their desire to amend the new Sierra Nevada Forest Plan to allow more logging and
the removal of larger trees. This would destroy habitat and increase severe fire behavior.
Already the Bush Administration is attempting to circumvent the Sierra Plan through the QLG
“Administrative Study”, using NFP monies to plan huge timber sales covering tens of
thousands of acres and removing trees up to 34 inches in diameter in California spotted owl
“The Bush Administration has utterly abused the National Fire Plan in order to please its
timber industry campaign contributors”, said Chad Hanson. He added, “The Administration is
preparing old growth timber sales with money designed for brush reduction. It’s criminal.”

For more information, contact:

Chad Hanson
Executive Director
John Muir Project
Web site:


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