Washington National forests are far more valuable for their recreation, wildlife and water quality than for timber, minerals and cattle grazing, according to a report released Tuesday by the Sierra Club.
The forests are worth an estimated $234 billion and generate 2.9 million jobs from recreation, fish and wildlife, water quality and wild areas, according to an economic consulting firm that prepared the report for the Sierra Club, which opposes commercial logging in national forests.
By comparison, the nation's 192 million acres of federal forests generate $23 billion and 407,000 jobs from timber, mining, grazing and other uses, said the firm, ECONorthwest.
"Leaving trees standing in most cases can contribute far more to local state and national economies than logging," said Ernie Niemi, a co-author of the report and an economist at the Eugene, Ore., firm.
A timber industry official challenged the report, saying the Forest Service can allow logging in forests and still produce benefits from recreation, water quality and fish and wildlife.
"We need to make sure we're balancing all the values of all the goods and services these forests provide," said Chris West of the Northwest Forestry Assn. in Portland, Ore.
The ECONorthwest study relies on a 1995 Forest Service analysis to conclude that recreation in forests would contribute $108 billion to the national economy and 2.6 million jobs by 2000.
The same analysis concluded that fish and wildlife in forests would provide $14 billion and 330,000 jobs by 2000.
The Forest Service analysis also predicted timber would generate $4 billion for the economy and 76,000 jobs by 2000, and that minerals, grazing and other activities would generate $19 billion and 331,000 jobs, the ECONorthwest report said.
ECONorthwest used a Forest Service study from this year to estimate that water in national forests is worth $4 billion.