GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) – The U.S. Forest Service confirmed Friday it is shutting down logging operations on national forests across the country due to the partial shutdown of the federal government.
The agency plans to notify 450 timber purchasers across the country early next week that timber sales and stewardship contracts will be suspended, Forest Service spokesman Leo Kay said in an email.
“We regret the continued impact on the American public; however we must cease activities that require Forest Service oversight and management during the funding lapse,’ he said.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he was informed of the move by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Logging is being shut down on 150 national forests nationwide.
“What this means is another economic hit to rural areas in tough economic shape during the government shutdown,” Wyden said.
Tom Partin, president of the timber industry group America Forest Resource Council, said he got word that the agency would be posting details of the shutdown on a White House website on Monday.
The Forest Service will be contacting each logging company in writing to tell them how to close down operations.
In general, loggers will have seven days to finish cutting and hauling out logs on timber sales where they are already working. The shutdown comes as loggers typically look forward to one more month of work before winter weather makes conditions tougher.
“I would have hoped they would have considered timber sale contract officers being essential personnel, but apparently at this point they are not,” Partin said of federal officials. “If it goes on for a period of time, it could start impacting sawmills and really start putting people out of work.”
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said the shutdown was another reason the Senate should join the House in passing legislation to increase logging on national forests, in part by putting them under local control.
That bill has passed the House but is considered unlikely to pass the Senate.
The White House has issued a statement saying if the bill gets to the desk of President Barrack Obama, he will be advised to veto it because it would harm habitat for endangered species, increase the chance of lawsuits, and limit the president’s ability to create national monuments.
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