Opposition to the controversial bill faded in last-minute negotiations between Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, a timber industry advocate, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., a staunch environmentalist. Before the changes, Miller called the bill "a hijacking" of the Quincy Library Group plan which did not guarantee protection for riparian areas.
Adding language to clarify that logging and other forest activities must be in full compliance with all environmental laws satisfied Miller, said Rick Healy, a Democratic legislative staff member. "We raised the bar and they met it," Healy said.
The proposal for a five-year pilot project on national forests in the northern Sierra Nevada now goes to the Senate, where U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has introduced legislation nearly identical to the House bill. Feinstein said her bill further clarifies environmental protections during logging of up to 60,000 acres a year on the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests.
But environmentalists representing local, regional and national groups continue to oppose the Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act. Although the changes are improving it, the untested logging techniques authorized cover too large an area over too long a time, said Louis Blumberg of the Wilderness Society.
In addition, the legislation - which he considers unnecessary - favors local solutions to the exclusion of some national interests, Blumberg said.
It was the model of a rural community struggling to solve problems that seemed to entrance Congress. The bill demonstrates what working through differences can accomplish, not only in Northern California but also in the House, said Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif., who co-sponsored the bill introduced by Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif.
"Compromise is contagious," Fazio said.
*Jane Braxton Little
Jane Braxton Little freelances from Plumas County, Calif.