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White House Kills Logging Compromise

Environment: Administration spokesman says plan to ease restrictions in Sierra was 'not supported by the best forest science.'

August 24, 1996|FRANK CLIFFORD | TIMES ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER

The Clinton administration has rejected a proposed new logging plan for the Sierra Nevada that would have eased restrictions put in place to protect the California spotted owl and larger, older trees.

"The plan in its current form is definitely not going forward," said Jim Petterson, spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

Barry Toiv, a deputy White House press secretary, said Glickman and White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta "had concerns that it [the proposal] is not supported by the best forest science."

The administration action leaves in place interim limits on logging that were intended to protect the spotted owl while a long-term policy for the national forests in the Sierra was developed. This is the second time this year that the administration has blocked the U.S. Forest Service from releasing long-term proposals.

The latest plan was never officially released, but advance word of its contents leaked out. Environmental groups protested the easing of logging rules and pointed out that it would not help Clinton in California, where environmentally minded voters are important to Democratic reelection hopes.

Representatives of the Wilderness Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council argued that the proposed policy ignored the advice of scientists studying the Sierra who called for new strategies to protect old-growth forests.

In addition, the critics cited a three-year, congressionally sponsored study of the Sierra that concluded that owls, along with a number of other animal species, were declining in number because of timber cutting and other pressures on the forests.

Forest Service officials insisted that although the new policy would have allowed larger, older trees to be cut, there would be ample protection built in for wildlife and overall forest health.

Allowing more logging would provide jobs to hard-pressed Sierra towns and ease the danger of wildfire, Forest Service officials said. They said Friday they were unaware of the administration action.

Representatives of the timber industry, which has been urging Congress to relax the restrictions on Sierra logging, had welcomed the Forest Service proposal and were dismayed at the news of its rejection.

"The status quo virtually puts a 'do not enter' sign on almost all of the Sierra Nevada forests that were legislated for multiple use, which includes the responsible production of wood products," said Don Zea, an official of the California Forestry Assn.

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