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Efforts to Get Cease-Fire in Logging Battle Break Down

June 29, 1989|MARK A. STEIN | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Efforts by Oregon legislators to set up a temporary cease-fire in the controversy over cutting old-growth timber collapsed Wednesday when both sides said they could not reach an agreement in time to pass the necessary legislation.

However, environmentalists and Oregon's congressional delegation continued to offer hope that some accommodation might yet be developed in time for them to add it to legislation to accompany the federal budget for the fiscal year starting in October.

California's congressional delegation also joined the old-growth fight, but on the side of less logging. All but two people in the 45-member delegation have signed a letter pleading for an immediate moratorium on the logging of virgin coastal redwood forests.

For now, however, the future of the nation's dwindling old-growth forests is left with the federal courts, which have issued injunctions restricting logging on large tracts in Oregon, California and Washington, the top timber states.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 30, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 6 Metro Desk 2 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
In an article Thursday on the controversy over Pacific Coast timber harvests, a letter urging a moratorium on redwood logging was incorrectly described as being signed by 43 members of California's congressional delegation. The letter was signed by 18 members of the state's delegation and by 25 House members from other states.

Deal Called Dead

"Basically, the deal we offered on Saturday is dead," said Lee Weinstein, a spokesman for Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

The governor, along with the state's seven-member congressional delegation, last Saturday had developed a short-term compromise in a bitter battle between environmentalists and loggers over how best to manage the virgin timberland of the Pacific Northwest. In order to make saw logs available to mills, environmentalists were being asked to withdraw their successful lawsuits and timber industry groups were being asked to significantly improve their logging methods.

Industry leaders accepted the proposal by the original Tuesday deadline but environmentalists balked at several points, especially at a provision prohibiting them from appealing or suing on any of the timber sales included in the compromise.

A House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee meeting was postponed a day to give negotiators more time to find some middle ground, but by day's end Wednesday an agreement had not been made.

"Everybody still is going to search for a short-term solution, but nobody is able to say what that short-term solution might look like," said Gregg Kantor, a Goldschmidt aide.

"Is the deal dead? I don't know, to be honest," said Rachel Gorlin, a member of the staff of Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). "They (environmentalists) have been making positive mumblings, but we missed the deadline to go into (the 1990 budget)."

The 1990 fiscal year budgets for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are being prepared this week by the House. Short deadlines were set to reach a compromise so that it could be included in the budget.

Sydney J. Butler of the Wilderness Society in Washington--echoing remarks made by U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield in a speech in Grants Pass, Ore.--said the deal offered Saturday still can serve as a framework for some future agreement.

Any such agreement would have to be added to the budget in the Senate, then go back to the House for concurrence--a process that one Senate staff member said will significantly reduce its chance of passage.

"We're taking this compromise very, very seriously," Butler said. "But we could not work out all of the details in the short time available. We have agreed in concept, but we couldn't agree in detail."

However, there appears to be substantial difference in concept and detail.

For example, a key element of the congressional compromise is a prohibition against legal action by environmentalists for the life of the agreement, which would run through September, 1990.

Industry leaders insist on this provision, which they say is needed to help them plan budgets, hire workers and obtain bank loans for operating capital. But environmentalists seem unwilling to accept such a restriction.

'Bad Precedent'

"When you get into waiving judicial review, you're setting all kinds of bad precedent," Butler said Wednesday, after talks broke down. "If you can't sue on a sale that violates the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act, you have essentially amended those very important laws."

Unlike their Oregon colleagues, California legislators are seeking stricter enforcement of environmental laws.

In a letter circulated by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Oakland) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), 43 members of the California's House delegation asked the state Board of Forestry to immediately cease the cutting of all private stands of virgin coastal redwoods.

The plea was aimed directly at the Pacific Lumber Co. of Scotia, Calif., which owns 70% of the estimated 20,000 acres of old-growth redwoods not already protected in state or federal parks. Palco, as the firm is known, recently was bought by Maxxam Corp. of Los Angeles in a leveraged buyout, or LBO.

"Congressman Stark and Congressman Lantos were just frustrated at watching in effect the slaughtering of redwoods to pay the huge debt of an LBO," said Perry Plumart, a spokesman for Stark. "They (Maxxam) are so starved for cash they are not even waiting to mill many of the logs themselves; they're selling raw logs directly to the export market to Japan as fast as they can cut them."

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