Federal Government Raises Price of New Homes to Protect the Lumber Industry it Has Nearly Killed


DATE: May 29, 2002

BACKGROUND: The International Trade Commission has upheld a U.S. tariff of 27 percent on Canadian softwood lumber, the type used for the framing of homes. The action was taken because imports of Canadian lumber pose a "threat of injury" to the U.S. lumber industry. According to Congressman Gary Miller (R-CA), the tariff will raise the price of a new home by $1,000, denying home ownership to hundreds of thousands of low-income families.1

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: The real threats to the American lumber industry are federal government and environmentalist policies that have shut down 70 to 85 percent of logging in this country.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Raising the price of homes for the poor (and thus, disproportionately, minorities) is not the way to protect American logging. We can protect the industry and lower the cost of homes by reopening our forests to sensible, environmentally-beneficial logging. The last time we harvested more timber in this country than we grew was in 1933. The 70 to 85 percent reduction in harvests, due to misguided environmentalism, actually harms more species than it protects and turns our forests into firetraps.

DISCUSSION: The federal government, goaded, sued, cajoled and harassed by environmentalists, has restricted logging on federal lands to the point where sound land management has largely disappeared in our nation's forests.

Many of the logging restrictions were put in place allegedly to protect bird species that breed in mature forests. However, the Breeding Survey shows that while 24 percent of species that breed in mature forests are declining, 50 percent of species that require very young forests or brushland show significant long term population declines, according to Dan Dessecker, senior wildlife biologist of the Ruffed Grouse Society.

Also, Texas A&M University forestry professor Tom Bonnicksen, who has studied the history of North American forests from the last ice age to the present time, maintains that logging is an essential ingredient for maintaining forest health in today's world.


by Tom Randall, Director
John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs
The National Center for Public Policy Research

Contact the author at: 773-857-5086 or TRandall@nationalcenter.org
The National Center for Public Policy Research, Chicago office
3712 North Broadway - PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613



1 According to an excerpt from a letter drafted by Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) and circulated on Capitol Hill for signatures during May 2002 in advance of being mailed to President Bush:

"On May 2, the International Trade Commission (ITC) voted to confirm a 27 percent tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports. The ITC found no evidence that Canada lumber imports were actually harming the U.S. industry, and cited a 'threat of injury' as the basis for implementing this protectionist border measure that restricts the principal material used to meet our nation's housing needs.

"This tariff will increase the cost of a new home by more than $1,000. While this amount may seem small when compared to the price of a home, when combined with recent data from the National Association of Realtors' composite Housing Affordability Index, the impact will be significant for first-time home buyers. In the first quarter of 2002, affordability for first-time homebuyers slipped 2.6 percentage points to 79.8; it was 2.5 percentage points below the first quarter 2001 index of 82.3. Ultimately, a 27 percent tariff on Canadian softwood lumber will price 300,000 to 450,000 families out of the American dream of home ownership."