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See also Section 16: Environmental Management of Public Lands.
The federal government's primary role in regulating timber production is with respect to logging operations on federal land. Otherwise, the federal government is limited to establishing indirect incentives or voluntary programs for encouraging environmentally sound management of private and state forest lands. Most states have set their own environmental standards covering, for example, reforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, and fire control.
The USDA Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture manages over 191 million acres of lands in 42 states, which includes 90 million acres of potentially harvestable forest land. In addition, other federal agencies, particularly the Bureau of Land Management, have jurisdiction over timber on their lands.
Forest management on federal lands is primarily regulated by the 1897 Organic Administration Act, ch. 2, 30 Stat. 34 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 16 U.S.C.), the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, 16 U.S.C. sec. 528-531; and the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, 16 U.S.C. secs. 1600-1614. Although timber production has historically been, and continues to be, the major use of most national forests, these lands must be managed according to principles of multiple use and sustained yield. Other federal statutes include: the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act of 1978, 16 U.S.C. secs. 1641-1647; the Renewable Resources Extension Act of 1978, 16 U.S.C. secs. 1671-1675; and, the Wood Residue Utilization Act of 1980, 16 U.S.C. secs. 1681-1687.
Although timber production is the dominant use, national forests must be administered for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, grazing, watershed protection, and wildlife and fish conservation. See Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, 16 U.S.C. secs. 528-531. Consideration must be given to the relative value of the resources, and priority should not necessarily be given to "the combination of uses that will give the greatest dollar return or the greatest unit output." 16 U.S.C. sec. 531.
The forests must also be managed to provide a "sustained yield" of all the products and services provided by the forest. Sustained yield is defined as the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high level, regular output of the various renewable resources of the national forests without impairing the land's productivity. 16 U.S.C. sec. 531.
The Secretary of Agriculture may allow the harvest of timber stands which are substantially damaged by fire, windthrow, or other catastrophe, or which are in imminent danger from insect or disease attack. 16 U.S.C. sec. 1611