Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Audit: Standing timber costing state

Staff report

Albany (AP) – New York is failing to harvest as many trees from
its state forests as it could each year and is losing almost $5
million annually in possible income as a result, state Comptroller
Thomas DiNapoli said last month.

DiNapoli said that while the state’s 15-year-old ‘sustainable
harvest’ standard calls for cutting up to 17,675 acres annually, an
audit of the program for the three-year period that began in 2003
found that the amount cut was often 5,000 acres or more less than
that.

While the state collected $15.3 million from timber sales during
that period, DiNapoli said it lost out on at least another $14.6
million because it failed to keep its cutting up to the
standard.

The harvesting program, which involves about 762,000 acres of
state forest, is designed to keep the forest healthy and
biologically diverse while producing income for the state. DiNapoli
noted that since the cutting standards were set in 1992, the state
has increased its forest acreage by more than 9 percent.

A major problem, said DiNapoli, is that the state Department of
Environmental Conservation cut the number of foresters on the
payroll from 46 to 33 between April 2001 and March 2006. The
comptroller said the state might want to consider hiring an
additional 17 foresters to adequately manage the program. DiNapoli
noted that three additional foresters were hired by DEC in May
2006.

DiNapoli said hiring 17 foresters would cost the state about
$1.15 million annually, but would allow it to make an extra $4.85
million from timber sales, more than paying for the extra staff if
the additional foresters were assigned full-time to the sustainable
harvest program. The actual cutting is contracted out to lumber
companies.

While generally agreeing with the comptroller’s audit findings
and recommendations, DEC officials cautioned that ‘the allowable
cut should be viewed as the upper limit if ideal conditions
existed’ within the forest ‘and should not be viewed as a
harvesting goal.’

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