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Would Double Tree Harvest by Year 2030 : Reagan Seeks Expanded Timber Policy

September 20, 1986|LEE MAY | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration, in its long-term blueprint for managing the nation's protected forests, Friday proposed doubling the amount of timber that could be cut annually by the year 2030 and building an additional 260,000 miles of roads for logging trucks.

In recommending the long-awaited plan to Congress, which must review it, President Reagan said it adheres to "the principle of judicious balance" between protecting unspoiled wilderness lands and harvesting timber and recovering minerals.

In a letter, the President defended his Administration's record on managing the nation's 191-million-acre national forest system, saying that the acreage in designated wilderness areas managed by the Forest Service had doubled to 32 million acres.

However, environmentalists and congressional critics lambasted the proposal.

'Blueprint for Waste'

George T. Frampton Jr., president of the Wilderness Society, called the Administration plan "a blueprint for environmental and economic waste."

He said timber cutting already "is silting mountain streams, damaging wildlife habitat and diminishing recreation opportunities. Yet the Administration is proposing to double the cut."

A hearing is scheduled Tuesday on the proposal before the House Agriculture Committee's subcommittee on forests, family farms and energy. One committee aide promised that there would be "a lot of hard questions" on whether it is good for the forests or merely "a political or budget-driven document."

The new proposals envision dramatic increases in earnings from federal forest lands by 2030. As much as $3.4 billion could be earned annually from the sale of minerals, timber and from proposed new recreation fees in national forests, according to the Administration figures--almost triple the $1.3 billion this year. Critics assert that the figures are overly optimistic because increased availability of timber will drive down its price.

580,000 Miles of Roads

Peter C. Kirby, senior counsel for the Wilderness Society, said that California, with 20.4 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land, would have the most new logging roads. Nationwide, the Administration's proposal would provide for a total network of 580,000 miles of roads.

Under the 1974 Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, the secretary of agriculture updates the long-range plan on forest use every five years. The one sent to Congress on Friday was supposed to have been transmitted in January, 1985.

Several congressmen have complained about the tardiness and now are angered that the Administration proposals are not made in firm figures, but in high and low ranges, called "low bound" and "high bound."

For example, the low range for annual timber-cutting in the year 2030 would be 15.6 billion board feet, while the high range would be 20 billion board feet, double the current allowable amount. In California the increase would be as much as 40%.

Improved Insect Control

At the Forest Service, a division of the Agriculture Department, Thomas E. Hamilton, director of the resources program and assessment staff, said increased timber cutting is feasible partly because of the greater yields possible as a result of improved insect control and other management techniques.

As for the impact of additional roads, he said: "We build them to certain standards to mitigate against any effect that road-building would have."

Nevertheless, some congressmen remain opposed to the plan.

Rep. Leon E. Panetta (D-Monterey), a member of the subcommittee, called the proposed timber-cutting and road-building examples of the Administration's "fire-sale attitude" toward forest lands. He said that using the high and low ranges instead of definite figures is what happens when "nobody's got the guts to make a bottom-line decision. It doesn't make sense to allow for broad ranges."

However, Rep. Sid Morrison (R-Wash.), another member of the subcommittee, said the Administration proposals are "not out of line" with the nation's needs and resources.

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