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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed certain aspects of Forest Service timber operations in northern California. The request was made due to complaints made by small loggers and mill operators alleging mismanagement of timber sales at the Plumas National Forest.
GAO found that some problems existed regarding: (1) preparation and administration of timber sales, (2) accountability over Government logs stored at purchasers' mills, and (3) treatment of small companies purchasing Forest Service timber. Experienced timber staff were not detailed to Plumas to handle an increased timber sale workload caused by an epidemic insect infestation and droughts in 1976 and 1977. In the absence of effective sales supervision and clear instructions on marking trees for harvest, some questionable tree-marking (designation) and cutting occurred. There was also some question as to whether the proper logging systems were used on some sales as specified in the sales contracts. Some purchasers of Plumas timber have special arrangements whereby the Forest Service retains ownership and incurs the financial risks and losses for logs it stores at the purchaser's mill until it is measured for final payment. GAO believes that the Forest Service should use alternative measuring methods that will provide uniform treatment to all purchasers of Forest Service timber. Finally, purchasers of small timber sales at Plumas were required to provide higher percentages of their contract prices as performance deposits than were purchasers of large sales. GAO concluded that all performance deposit requirements need to be adjusted to ensure consistent and equitable treatment of all purchasers.
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