Bush Undermines Northwest Protections Against Old Growth Logging

April 13, 2004

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the landmark forest management plan which halted rampant logging in the Pacific Northwest. But now, thanks to recent actions by the Bush Administration, the region's old-growth forests are again in jeopardy. There is danger of a return to the bad old days of timber wars, which had bitterly divided forest advocates and logging interests.

Late last month the Bush Administration endangered the past decade's fragile truce by making two major changes to Northwest Forest Management Plan. These changes, which weaken protection for watersheds, salmon, and rare animals and plants, will allow timber companies to increase logging on 24 million acres of public land in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.[1]

In a letter to President Bush, six members of Congress from the region described the changes as "a tragic misstep" which "weaken...the basic environmental safeguards for forests, fish, and clean water." They warned that it would be "a step backward in time for the people of Oregon and Washington and may reopen decade-old wounds that have been slow to heal."[2]

Jasmine Minbashian, who heads the Northwest Old Growth Campaign, shares this fear. "The Bush Administration is trying to take us back to the days of conflict," she said, describing the changes as "irresponsible and reckless."

In response to a timber industry lawsuit, the Bush Administration dropped a requirement that forest managers survey a proposed cutting area for rare plants and animals -- a rule which offered protection for nearly 300 imperiled plants and animals not yet listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Logging companies had complained that these precautions were too time consuming and expensive.

The administration also weakened the Aquatic Conservation Strategy, which promotes recovery of the region's salmon. More than five dozen timber sales have been judged illegal because they failed to comply with provisions to protect salmon habitat.

The Bush Administration change will likely allow for quick approval of damaging timber projects, which include logging and road construction on steep slopes and next to salmon streams.[3]

"The Northwest Forest Plan is one of the most comprehensive efforts ever undertaken to manage an entire ecosystem and sustain all of its parts -- forests, imperiled species, water resources, and communities," Mike Leahy, natural resources counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, told BushGreenwatch. It "was a fragile compromise addressing the needs of all stakeholders. But the Bush Administration is now turning its back on that historic effort."

Ironically, the Bush Administration's latest gift to the timber industry may also be superfluous. "Ten years later, hardly any mills depend on old-growth timber, there is a glut of timber on the market, and support for ancient forest protection is stronger than ever," said Mitch Friedman of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. "How the Bush Administration can justify continued logging of old-growth forests is mystifying."

[1] Nathaniel Lawrence, Natural Resources Defense Counsel.
[2] Letter, Jan. 16, 2003, from Representatives Inslee, Larsen,
McDermott, Blumenauer, Wu, and Smith.
[3] Northwest Old Growth Campaign: http://www.nwoldgrowth.org/

Source: http://www.bushgreenwatch.org/mt_archives/000094.php


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