Timber Owl and Logging (TIMOWL)
CASE NUMBER: 71
CASE MNEMONIC: TIMOWL
CASE NAME: Timber-Owl Controversy
1. The Issue
In the late 1980s, there was a serious shortage of timber in
the Pacific Northwest resulting from massive over cutting of
forests and other harmful policies. To control this problem,
members of Congress introduced and passed the "Forest Resources
Conservation and Shortage Relief Act of 1990", (the Forest
Resources bill) which was part of the much larger Customs and
Trade Act of Omnibus Trade Bill. The bill contained provisions to save
old forests inhabited by the endangered spotted owl by reducing
law log exports to Japan. This would also serve to keep some value-
added processing of the wood in the United States.
The ancient forest/spotted owl controversy represents one of
the most divisive issues to plague the Pacific Northwest. The
case centers around:
"the now infamous dispute over logging in publicly owned
old-growth and the attendant threat to the northern
spotted owl. The spotted owl, confronting extinction,
sits at the center of controversy, but the debate extends
far beyond the fate of the owl, raising issues about the
consequences of logging practices on our public lands on
the one hand, and about the costs of environmental
protection and economic transition on the other."
Many factors contribute to the environmental crisis in the
Pacific Northwest. Numerous species are threatened by the loss
of the ancient forest and many people in the Pacific Northwest
depend on timber for their livelihood. The ancient forests of the
Pacific Northwest are unique treasures to Washington, Oregon and Northern
California. "The largest and some of the oldest trees in the
world are found within these ancient groves. While not having as many
plant species as the tropical rain-forest, the old-growth forest
supports two to ten times more plant life -- 400 tons per acre in
a typical old-growth forest and a remarkable 1,800 tons per acre
in an old-growth redwood forest as opposed to 180 tons per acre in
the tropical rainforest." Unfortunately these ancient forests are
being logged at abundant levels, threatening the many species
that depend on the old growth habitat for survival. The most famous
species is the northern spotted owl.
"By the late 1970's and early 1980's, scientists
increasingly recognized that the owl might be an indicator species for the
general health of the old growth forests. Thus, the debate over
the owl has always been interconnected with the debate about
preserving old growth forests." The owl has experienced a
precipitous decline. "Scientists estimate that a total of only
3000 to 4000 owl pairs remain, and the population continues to
decline." As a result the spotted owl is protected under the
Endangered Species Act (ESA) and therefore has become a
significant figure in the ancient forest controversy.
Timber related jobs are prominent within rural communities
of the Pacific Northwest. These towns often center around timber
activities (see USWOOD case).
"Local economies can be as much as 70% dependant on the timber
industry...Additionally, County governments can be dependent on
forest receipts for 20-50% of their revenue." In addition, trade
has played an important role in this problem as "foreign demand
for high quality timber from old growth further encourage[s] rapid
depletion of American forests." The shipping of raw logs to
Japan has cost the Pacific Northwest thousands of jobs. In fact, "from
1969 to 1989, all log exports from the Northwest were the
equivalent of shipping 7.5 million homes overseas, or about 75
billion board feet. Those log exports alone would have been
worth 417,000 jobs." Therefore, not just the spotted owl is
responsible for the loss of timber related jobs.
From the 1970s until the mid-1980s, there was a surplus of
timber in the Pacific Northwest that was due in part to weather
conditions and the Mount St. Helens eruption of the early 1980s.
This timber surplus plunged the area into an economic depression.
The depression was alleviated when vast stands of timber were cut
and exported overseas, providing much needed jobs for the lumber
industry, primarily in Washington and Oregon. However, as a
result of over cutting, the timber industry of the Pacific Northwest, by
the late 1980s, was faced with a timber shortage so serious that
the industry had to import 30 percent of its lumber from Canada.
Further exacerbating the problem, the Forest Service
introduced plans in 1990 to reduce an average of 15-20 percent
land available for timber harvest in an effort to ensure the continued
existence of the northern spotted owl. The owl had recently been
listed under the Endangered Species Act. Statistics showed that
with this reduction of land, the lumber industry would need to
import 40-50 percent of its lumber from Canada (see OPTION9 case).
The Forest Resources bill contains two important provisions:
(1) a ban on the export of logs originating from western federal
lands, excluding lands held in trust for Native Americans and (2)
a ban on the practice of direct substitution. The bill prohibits
any person from buying federal logs if that person will
substitute the federal logs for exported private logs; and (3) ban the act
of indirect substitution except in the state of Washington, where
it will be capped. Indirect substitution is the practice of
indirectly acquiring federal logs while exporting private logs
from the same geographic and economic area.
The urgency of this crisis is imminent. "Estimates suggest
that between sixty and ninety percent of the old-growth forest in
the Pacific Northwest has been cut down." The effects of
extensive logging in these regions go far beyond the spotted owl.
For instance, "these forest systems are also central to the
health of entire watersheds -- watersheds that municipalities and
agriculture depend on, watersheds that support perhaps as many as
100 different fish stocks." In addition, clear cutting has
already resulted in erosion and flooding. Plus, the Pacific
Northwest depends on tourism and recreation revenues in the State
and National parks of Oregon, Washington, and Northern
California. One of the arguments in the old-growth debate is that the timber
industry wants to log on public lands. This would hurt the
tourism business as clear cutting is unsightly and the loss of species is
Three major U.S. agencies are involved in forest management
of public lands in this region. These include the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM), the Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife
Service. Each of these organizations are responsible for
implementing forest management planning and each would maintain
sustainable growth within the forests. Environmentalists,
however, have brought multiple law suits against these agencies.
The Clinton administration "is proposing a five-year $1.2
billion economic assistance package designed to create 8,000 jobs
and provide retraining opportunities." Also, "Under the plan,
about 4 million acres of forest in the region would be open to
logging, about 7.4 million acres would be in protected reserves
where only some thinning and salvage logging could take place,
1.5 million acres would be open to experimental logging techniques
and, 2.6 million acres of land adjacent to rivers and streams would be
off limits to logging." Even without the spotted owl crisis,
current timber harvests cannot continue because too many other
factors are affected.
3. Related Cases
4. Draft Authors: Tung-lin Wu and Janet Herrlinger
(1): Trade Product = WOOD
(2): Bio-geography = TEMPerate
(3): Environmental Problem = DEFORestation
B. LEGAL Clusters
5. Discourse and Status: DISagreement and INPROGress
The Clinton Administration currently is in its final stages
of a Pacific Northwest Forest Management Plan and Economic
Assistance Proposal. Unfortunately this plan was delayed when U.S. District
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that the Clinton
Administration "broke the law in developing its plan for management of federal
forests in the Pacific Northwest, but refused a timber industry
request to block implementation of the plan." The Clinton
Administration has also proposed protection zones to help
threatened fish species in the Pacific Northwest. With this fish
restriction, further controls on logging might occur.
6. Forum and Scope: USA and UNIlateral
7. Decision Breadth: 2 (USA and Japan)
There were several interested parties that were involved in
the passage of the bill. Labor groups were in favor of the
bill's passage because they represent those in the timber industry that
were losing jobs because of the timber shortage.
Environmentalists were also in favor of the bill since they were concerned about
the plight of the northern spotted owl. Two groups opposed the
bill's passage: the Pacific Rim Trade Association and the Weyerhaeuser
Corporation. The Pacific Rim Trade Association is a collection
of companies that are in the business of exporting logs to Japan and
elsewhere in Asia. Weyerhaeuser is a lumber corporation that
sells massive amounts of logs overseas each year (and involved in the
8. Legal Standing: LAW
Many issues and species are effected by the spotted owl/old
growth issue, including diverse interests ranging from timber
communities to farming communities. Many species that live in
the ancient forests are threatened besides the spotted owl. Logging
may produce other adverse economic impacts, including tourism and
recreation. The Endangered Species Act (ESA); The National
Forest Management Act (NFMA); The National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA); The Oregon and California Lands Act (OCLA); the Federal
Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA), and the Migratory Birds
Treaty Act (MBTA) represent laws that have impacted the Pacific
C. GEOGRAPHIC Clusters
9. Geographic Locations
a. Geographic Domain : North America [NAMER]
b. Geographic Site : Western North America [WNAMER]
c. Geographic Impact : USA
10. Sub-National Factors: YES
Each of the affected state's have trade missions which
actively promote wood exports. On the whole, the legislation has
been at the federal level, but the impact is at the local level.
11. Type of Habitat: TEMPerate and COOL
"The ancient forest stretches two thousand miles along the
Pacific coast from the Redwoods of Big Sur, California, to the
Sitka spruce of Afognak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Nestled
between the ocean dunes and the alpine tundra of the western
mountain rim, old-growth forests have been called the most
magnificent coniferous forests in the world. The largest and
some of the oldest trees in the world are found within these ancient
D. TRADE Clusters:
12. Type of Measure: Export Ban [EXBAN]
13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect
The prohibition of exports to Japan of raw logs is a direct
trade impact. By prohibiting logging in areas set aside to
protect the spotted owl, this measure prevents its possible extinction.
The issue is a direct impact because trade practices limit the
cutting of the old-growth forests. In addition, over cutting
affects the water reserves in the Pacific Northwest and thus fish
species. With mass logging, soil erosion has occurred, creating
a loss of rich top soil, and this will hurt the farming communities
in the region. Obviously, many problems seem to spiral from the
over cutting of American forests.
14. Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact
a. Directly Related : YES WOOD
b. Indirectly Related : YES WOOD products
c. Not Related : NO
d. Process Related : YES DEFORestation
15. Trade Product Identification: WOOD
The spotted owl is one species involved, but data is not
available concerning how many different types of tree species are
involved in the timber ban. The law stipulates that any export
of unprocessed timber originating from Federal lands west of the
100th meridian is banned.
16. Economic Data
As industries lose money from the reduction of logs the
difference will be passed on to consumers. In January 1993 the
price of 1,000 board feet of plywood was $243. The price rose to
$353 in September 1993 for the same quantity of plywood.
"Estimates of the number of jobs that will be lost range from a
high of 106,000 in a study funded by the timber industry, to as
low of 6,000, in an estimate by the United States Forest Service
prepared for other purposes", and lost income to individuals is
about $2.8 billion.
17. Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness: BAN
At least $2.8 billion in lost income can be attributable to
the ban. As people lose their timber industry jobs they lose
income. The Clinton Administration has also admitted that it
originally underestimated the impact of logging restrictions on
regional employment. "The Administration now predicts 9,500 jobs
directly related to the industry will be lost, about double its
The cost of timber will likely go up as less and less can be
cut. In January 1993 the price of 1,000 board feet of plywood
was $243. The price rose to $353 in September 1993 for the same
quantity of plywood. "Lumber prices have jumped 82 percent since
September and are likely to continue to soar with the arrival of
spring, when building increases and the demand for lumber picks
18. Industry Sector: WOOD
19. Exporter and Importer: USA and JAPAN
E. ENVIRONMENT Clusters
20. Environmental Problem Type: Species Loss Air [SPLA]
21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
Many species are effected by this case, the most notable is
the Spotted Owl. Still, old-growth forests support a large array
of plant and animal life. Some of which may still be unknown.
With this, cures for such diseases as cancer or AIDS may lie in
the ancient forest. The yew tree is a good example of deriving
medicinal products from natural sources (see MERCK case).
Name: Spotted Owl (Stigiformes)
Diversity: 68 birds per 10,000 km/sq (United States)
22. Resource Impact and Effect: HIGH and SCALE
23. Urgency and Lifetime: MEDium and 100s of years
Looking at the old-growth forest habitat itself, "Some
predict that thirty or fewer years of continued harvesting at recent
levels would deplete all of the remaining old growth in western
Washington and Oregon." The Spotted Owl is likely to be extinct before all
the forests are gone. "In a report written in February, three
university biologists said that the new data suggest that the
Northwest's old-growth forest ecosystem may already be
approaching the extinction threshold for the northern spotted owl, and they
cast serious doubt on whether the population can survive any
additional habitat loss."
24. Substitutes: LIKE products
There is no clear substitute for wood and its products.
However, relying on second and third growth forest could help
preserve the ancient forests and its species. Recycling efforts
could also lessen the need for timber products (especially when
looking at paper products).
VI. OTHER Factors
25. Culture: NO
26. Trans-Border: NO
27. Rights: YES
Timber dependant communities argue that their human rights
are being violated because they have lost jobs and a way of life.
28. Relevant Literature
"American Forest Products: Given the Bird." The Economist 13
(March 1993): 76-77.
Boyt, Jeb. "Struggling to Protect Ecosystem and Biodiversity
Under NEPA and NFMA: The Ancient Forests of the Pacific
Northwest and the Northern Spotted Owl." Pace
Environmental Law Review 10 (Spring 1993): 1009-1050.
Cushman, John H., Jr. "Owl Issue Tests Reliance on Consensus in
Environmentalism." The New York Times (March 4, 1994):
Flournoy, Alyson C. "Beyond The Spotted Owl Problem: Learning
from the Old-Growth Controversy." Harvard Environmental
Law Review 17 (1993): 261-332.
Foley, Elizabeth A. "The Tarnishing of an Environmental Jewel:
The Endangered Species Act and the Northern Spotted Owl."
Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law 8 (1992): 253-
"Forest Policy: To the Dinosaurs." The Economist (July 10,
"Government in Logging Pact with Environmental Groups." The New
York Times (October 8, 1993): A27.
Gutfeld, Rose. "Memo on Timber in Spotted Owl Region May Hurt
Clinton's Bid for Compromise." Wall Street Journal (June
16, 1993): B5.
Gutfeld, Rose and Salwen, Kevin G. "Clinton's Forest-Management
Proposal Is Given a Mostly Lukewarm Reception." The Wall
Street Journal (July 2, 1993): A8.
Gutfeld, Rose and Salwen, Kevin G. "Clinton to Unveil $1.5
Billion Proposal to Assist Timber Region in Northwest."
The Wall Street Journal (July 1, 1993): A16.
Kenworthy, Tom. "Administration Concedes It Underestimated
Logging's Job Losses." The Washington Post (February 24,
Kenworthy, Tom. "Judge Refuses to Block Federal Forestry
Plan." The Washington Post (March 22, 1994): A3.
"Lumber Prices are Soaring on Shortages and Owl Feud." New York
Times (March 11, 1993): D1, D6.
King, Elliot. "Difficult Times Ahead." Global Trade (August
Lattin, John. "Lessons from the Spotted Owl - the Utility of
Nontraditional Data." Bioscience 43 (November 1993):
Markoff, John. "A Legal Thicket Amid the Redwoods." The New
York Times (June 4, 1993: D1-D2.
McCoy, Charles. "Environmentalists, White House Strike Accord on
Logging." The Wall Street Journal (October 8, 1993): A4.
McCoy, Charles. "Even a Logger Praised as Sensitive to
Ecology Faces Bitter Opposition." The Wall Street Journal
(April 1, 1993): A1.
Middleton, David. Ancient Forests: A Celebration of North
America's Old Growth Wilderness. San Francisco:
Chronicle Books, 1992.
Palmer, Jay. "Love That Bird: Why Weyerhaueser's Prospects Look
Bright." Barron's (October 25, 1993): 20.
"Plan Offered to Aid Northwest Salmon and Trout." The New York
Times (March 27, 1994): A21.
Stone, Richard. "Spotted Owl Plan Kindles Debate on Salvage
Logging." Science 261 (16 July 1993): 287.
"The Lumberjack's Last Song." The Economist (April 10,
Title IV of the Customs and Trade Act of 1990, Public Law
101-382, August 20, 1990
United States Congress, Committee on Agriculture. Hearings on
Timber Supply Stability Act; Ancient Forest Protection
Act of 1990; Community Stability Act of 1990; Development
and Consideration of Alternatives for the Conservation of
the Northern Spotted Owl; and the Ancient Forest Act of
1990. 101 Congress, 2nd session. H.R. 3206, H.R. 4492,
H.R. 4909, H.R. 5094, H.R. 5116, H.R. 5295, Washington,
DC: GPO, 1990.
United States Congress, Committee on Agriculture.
Report on Northwest Forests Management Planning
Productivity Improvement, and Protection Act. 102
Congress, 2nd session. Washington, DC: GPO, 1992.
United States Congress, Committee on Agriculture and
Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Joint
Hearings on the Review of the Report Alternatives for
Management of Late Successional Forests of the Pacific
Northwest by the Scientific Panel on Late-Successional
Forests Ecosystems. 102 Congress. Washington: GPO,
United States Congress, Committee on Agriculture. Subcommittee
on National Parks and Public Lands of the Committee on
Interior and Insular Affairs. Hearings on the Protection
of Ancient Forests and Northern Spotted Owl, 101
Congress, 2nd session. H.R. 1645, H.R. 4492, H.R. 5116,
H.R. 5295. Washington, DC: GPO, 1991.
United States Congress. Committee on Merchant Marine and
Fisheries. Hearing on Olympic Experimental State Forest.
102 Congress, 2nd session, H.R. 4615. Washington, DC:
United States Senate. Committee on Environment and
Public Works. Hearings on the Conservation of the
Northern Spotted Owl. 102 Congress, 2nd session.
Washington, DC: GPO, 1992.
Yang, Dori Jones. "Timber Could Go Through The Roof." Business
Week (January 11, 1993): 90.
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