Timber audit highlights problems on two Tongass sales

Posted by / Joe Viechnicki 

An internal audit by the U.S. Forest Service says the federal agency mismanaged two timber sales. The report blames pressure to meet timber harvest targets. The result was it cost taxpayers around $2 million, failed to outline planned restoration work and potentially violated conflict of interest rules among other findings.

The August 2020 internal agency audit found problems with oversight and administration of two large timber sales on the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. It only saw the light of day after Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued for it. Jeff Ruch, Pacific director of the Maryland-based watchdog group said the report only tells part of the story.

“The report concludes that the problems were motivated by pressure to meet timber sale quotas but doesn’t explain pressure by whom, what about that pressure, how was it manifested, which officials were responsible,” Ruch said Monday. “And that sort of cryptic, unspecific kind of finding makes it difficult for the Forest Service to use it as a basis for reform.”