CONSERVATION REPORT, Sept. 95 Storm Petrel1
Congress passes a "Rider"2 which suspends all laws so clearcutting can resume; effect on Oregon and local forests3.
WHY HAS CLEAR CUTTING IN THE NATIONAL FORESTS RESUMED
The Forest Service is allowing clear cutting of Ancient Forests in an area of the Elk River watershed supposedly off limits to clear cutting An area in fact that the Fish and Wildlife Service declared critical habitat for the Marbled Murrelet, a roadless area, and in what is called a "key watershed." Protests near Eugene and Williams over other timber sales are also part of ongoing logging now beginning all through national forests in the pacific Northwest.
What is happening now will probably get a lot worse before it gets better. After many years of relative quiet in our forests and after the awful forest wars seemed to be over, logging in our National Forests has resumed. The story of how this happened is very sad and reveals a lot about what is happening to our country and our natural resources under a congress that is determined to abolish all the environmental laws.
The Clinton plan put all the Northwest forests under a new plan that mandated logging would be done very carefully and only after a lot of new studies and reviews. Logging from now on was supposed to be always done legally, with the health of the forests held foremost and only after scientists and ecologists made sure that no damage to the forests would occur. As you know if you have read the storm Petrel we were not happy about this and challenged Clinton's plan in court because we wanted permanent protection not just a lot of new procedures and guidelines which we were afraid would leave loopholes that could be abused. But we lost our court fight and the Clinton plan went into effect. We thought that was pretty much the end of it. We expected some logging but not much clear cutting and certainly none in the places that were roadless and biologically special. We never expected the old growth timber sales we stopped years ago would ever come up again. We very badly misjudged how much the timber Industry, right wing conservatives and our senior Senator Mark Hatfield were determined to log Ancient forests no matter what the biological damage might be.
In this Congress right wing conservatives have completely taken over the committees and recently passed a new law by just adding it onto a budget law. This new law suspended the laws that made up the rules about logging on National Forests. A law like this on a budget bill is called a "rider" because it is a law on one subject, like forests, that "rides along" on another bill in this case the national budget. Making legislation like this is a way to make legislation without going through public hearings and all the publicity that normal bills have to go through. This same law, this rider, specifically ordered the Forest Service to give timber companies permission to begin logging some old sales that had been suspended because they would do too much environmental damage. The logging underway on Elk River consists of these kinds of sales. Altogether there will be 5 units cut and also several other places on the forests will have logging too.
The Warner Creek and Sugarloaf sales are a little different. Warner Creek on the Willamette Forest near Eugene where protesters are making ditches in the roads is in a roadless area and in Spotted own habitat is a sale that a judge had ordered stopped. But after Congress suspended the laws the judge had to go back and lift his injunction because the underlying laws on which his injunction was based no longer applied. This sale is supposed to be for forest health and the Forest Service claims to be very proud of it, but it really cuts green living trees and no one made them do it.
The Sugarloaf Timber sale on the Siskiyou Forest near Williams is supposedly for the health of the forest and was never under injunction and was not affected by the "rider". It has been working its way through the process and finally got to the point where it is ready to be cut. In this sale over 1000 living green trees over four feet in diameter and perhaps 75 trees over six feet in diameter will be cut down supposedly for the benefit of the forest. Naturally the people around there are very upset and are doing the only thing they can to stop it, which is to do non–violent civil disobedience. There has been a lot of talk about tree spiking, but the spikes were placed years ago and there is no evidence that any of the protesters had anything to do with them.
In the past when sales that affected endangered species or critical watershed came up we could go to the courts, and have a judge look at them, and if they were not done according to the existing laws the judge would stop them. Many were stopped because hardly any were legal. These court injunctions on sale after sale created the so–called "gridlock" within the forests that the Clinton Forest plan was supposed to solve. Unfortunately congress has its own idea about how to solve our forest problems. It has decided to suspend the laws and order the Forest Service to cut the forests down. Unfortunately, President Clinton signed the bill with this "rider" into law, although the environmental community sent him 50,000 letters warning him not to.
One thing is clear, this congress is beginning to suspend and revoke the laws that protect our forests, and our environment. Much of the work and victories of the last ten years have been revoked or are about to be. The committees of Congress writing our environmental laws now employ timber industry lobbyists. Congress intends to try giving ranchers private property rights over public property now leased for grazing. They may even try to give public land away. The Arctic Wildlife Refuge may be opened for drilling. All work on endangered species protection and recovery may come to an end, or close to it.
The activists who won the battles over the illegal logging fair and square now do not know what to do, and frankly neither does your board. Some people are going out trying to physically stop these sales and getting arrested; some are doing protests and vigils. We hate to sound extreme or radical, but we do not know how more radical you can be than canceling our basic environmental laws and giving your forests away to the timber industry. And that, gentle readers, is exactly what is going on today.
Who is responsible for this resumption of logging?
Mark Hatfield was the Chairman of the committee that produced this bill and could have stopped it at any time: he definitely is responsible. Congressmen Cooley and Bunn were big supporters of this "rider" and pushed it as hard as they could; they are responsible and proud of it. President Clinton could have vetoed this bill and didn't; he is definitely responsible. When this law revoking the environmental laws was on the floor for a vote our Congressman Peter DeFazio voted against it and made quite a scene objecting to the mess that he predicted would be created. Governor Kitzhaber had no vote on this, but we think if he had complained to the President and warned him about what he was doing, the President might not have signed it. In fairness to the Governor, he did make a public appeal to the administration not to cut the Sugarloaf sale.
We are appalled and disgusted at the brute force way our forests have been opened to logging. Conservatives may go on about law and order, but when the laws stand between them and what they want so much for the laws. A large determined group of Western senators and congressmen are determined to log our national forests, and as of right now the environmental community does not know how they will be stopped. If you want to express yourself on this call Mark Hatfield who is the architect of our present mess, or at least could have stopped it if he wanted to because all these laws cane out of his committee; his phone number is -------.
[Ed note even though this and other Riders suspended laws and mandated a lot of clearcutting, sales scheduled around Port Orford never happened except for a couple of units in one sale (one timber sale can contain as many as dozen different units or separate cutting areas.]