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Information and Competition in U.S. Forest Service Timber Auctions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology and National Bureau of Economic ResearchStanford University

This paper analyzes the role of private information in U.S. Forest Service timber auctions. In these auctions, firms bid a per unit price for each timber species. Total bids are computed by multiplying these prices by Forest Service volume estimates, but payments depend on actual volumes harvested. We develop an equilibrium theory for these auctions. We then relate (ex post) data about volume to (ex ante) bids. We show that bidders have private information about volumes of species and use it as predicted by theory. Differences in bidder estimates appear to affect the allocation of tracts, but competition limits information rents.