Logging Plan Deceptively Marketed,
By David Brower and Chad Hanson
WHY? THAT'S what people usually say when they first see the effects of logging on our national forests the clear cuts, the mudslides, the scarred hillsides and the fouled streams: It all seems like a bad dream. On August 20, it got worse. The U.S. Forest Service decided to implement a plan that will double current logging levels in the Lassen, Plumas and Tahoe national forests in the northern Sierra Nevada. The logging plan, named after the California timber town of Quincy, professes to be a "pilot project" or model for other national forests.
More than 10,000 public comments were submitted to the Forest Service on the Quincy Library Group plan, the great majority of which requested that logging in these national forests be dramatic reduced or stopped. The public was ignored.
Timber corporations make huge profits cutting down the public's forests for pennies on the dollar, while taxpayers foot the bill for logging road construction, timber sale planning and restoration expenses. The timber industry shows its appreciation by giving millions in campaign contributions to congressional leaders who dutifully appropriate more logging subsidies and pass pro logging legislation.
However, recent polls showed that Americans are increasingly opposed to the continuation of the timber sales program in national forests. In a poll conducted on June 22 25 last year by Market Strategies Inc., 69 pe rcent opposed the federal log ging program, while 24 percent favored it.
Tlhis mounting public pressure leaves federal policyrnakers with only two choices: Listen to the people or develop more creative pretexts to keep logging. last year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D Calif., joined by pro logging Republicans, opted for the latter approach, successfully attaching the Quincy logging plan as a "rider" to an appropriations bill by portraying it as a measure to reduce forest fire risk in the northern Sierra.
Never mind the fact that the Forest Service's report on Sierra Nevada forests f6und that "timber harvest, through its effects on forest structure, local microclimate and fuel accumulation, has increased fire severity more than any other recent human activity." The report blamed removal of larger trees as the cause. Heedless of this fact, under the version of the Quincy plan just chosen by the Forest Service, the increase in timber volume will come mostly from the removal of larger trees.
Still, the Forest Service isn't the only culprit here. After all, the chosen altemative was picked for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with science or sound forest management. Rather, it "was selected because it will implement the direction provided by Congress in the (Quincy) act."
The other alternatives, including the one which would have reduced logging levels, were never really considered at all. This begs the question, why invite the public to comment when there was never any intention to consider their input?
Perhaps most disturbing of all, though, is what the Quincy logging plan represents on a deeper level. It was marketed and sold to lawmakers as the product of a "consensus" group, where local loggers and environmentalists got together ostensibly to find a middle ground. In reality, the group was heavily dominated by timber interests, so the resulting "coiripromise" predictably called for radically increased logging levels.
Fundamentally, the Quincy plan is based on the premise of letting industry groups in rural timber towns dictate the fate of federally owned lands, essentially transferring decision making power from the American people and into the hands of extractive industries.
Fortunately, a growing number of congressional representatives are seeing through the deceptions and are listening to the public. Nearly 70 members of the
House now co sponsor HR1396, the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act, which will end the timber sales program on all federal public lands nationwide and will redirect logging' subsidies into worker retraining, ecological restoration and taxpayer savings.
It's about time. As a nation, we are not so poor that we must log our national forests, nor so rich that we can afford to.
David Brower is on the national board the Sierra Club and is the club's former executive director. Chad Hanson is the executive director of the John Muir Project.
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