Congress seeks to block public from protecting forests

Forest advocates fearful Senator Feinstein may support suspension of environmental laws

provided by The American Lands Alliance

arly this month the American Lands Alliance denounced efforts by the Bush Administration and some lawmakers today to weaken environmental safeguards for public lands and block citizens from protecting National Forests. On August 22, President Bush unveiled his “Healthy Forest Initiative,” a proposal quickly panned by scientists, firefighters, and conservationists because it would suspend environmental laws and judicial review to accommodate dramatic increases in logging. Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) are expected to offer an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill next week that would enshrine the President's initiative.

    Congressional sources have told American Lands that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) discussed the issue with Senator Craig and rejected his initial proposal because it did not include protections for old growth and roadless forests. However, Senator Feinstein has hinted she may support suspension of environmental laws and judicial review of logging projects. One Congressional staffer told American Lands that “you have every right to be concerned about Senator Feinstein. She is negotiating a deal with Senator Craig and creating a headache for the rest of the Democrats.” According to the source, Senator Craig has promised Senator Feinstein he would include language in the amendment that would ease logging restrictions for the Quincy Library Group project, a Feinstein plan passed in 1998 that facilitated logging on three Sierra Nevada National Forests.

    “We are fearful Senator Feinstein may support legislation that will cut the public out of forest management decisions. If the Senator and her colleagues gut environmental protections for public lands than all hell is going to break out in the forests. It will be a war in the woods with citizens blocking logging roads and sitting in trees. Rest assured, Senators who vote for this disastrous proposal will be held accountable,” said Brian Vincent, California Organizer for American Lands.

    Vincent said the Craig/Domenici amendment would be a repeat of the infamous 1995 clear-cut logging rider. That provision, which was attached to a relief bill for victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, rolled back environmental laws and blocked citizen challenges to timber sales for 18 months. The Forest Service used the rider to log old growth forests and endangered species habitat that had previously been protected.

    “The Bush Administration, some lawmakers, and the timber industry are playing on the public's fears of wildfires to push forward industrial strength logging projects in our nation's most wild forests. If Senator Feinstein supports the President's forest scheme she will be aiding and abetting lawless logging,” said Vincent.