The timber wars evolve into a divisive attempt at peace

  • National forests affected by the QLG plan

    Diane Sylvain
  • Michael Jackson at the QLG's meeting place

    Ed Marston
  • The Quincy Library Group celebrates at Pres. Clinton's Tahoe Summit

    Debra Moore
  • Dense stands of trees make unmanaged forests a fire hazard

    U.S. Forest Service
  • A logging truck makes its way through Quincy

    Ed Marston
  • Thinned forest reduces chance of catastrophic fire

    Peter Meyer/Milford Ranger Distr
  • Timber sold by USFS in Calif. plunged by about 70\% since the"80s

    Diane Sylvain
 

QUINCY, Calif. - One requirement for belonging to the Quincy Library Group is a strong bladder. The group's July 29 meeting - roughly its 50th since its 1993 founding - ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and while a few people came and a few people went, most of the 20 participants never left the table.

The meeting seemed like a basketball practice. The four hours were spent running through and critiquing old plays and working on a few new ones. Occasionally the participants would conjure up and scrimmage an opponent - usually the U.S. Forest Service but sometimes national environmentalists - and spend a few minutes scoring points off them.

The QLG is made up of timber people from the northern Sierra Nevada, local environmentalists, citizens and representatives of local government. It had been just another consensus partnership until its Republican congressman, Rep. Wally Herger, introduced a bill ordering the Forest Service to do the group's bidding. After a contentious House debate in July, the bill passed that body 429 to 1.

Western Republicans such as Alaska's Don Young and Idaho's Helen Chenoweth had joined enthusiastically with green Democrats Vic Fazio of California, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, and Republican environmental leader Sherwood Boehlert of New York to push the bill. Finally, even a very reluctant George Miller, Democrat of California, threw his support to the bill, bringing a substantial bloc with him. (See Jon Margolis' column on page 13.)

The bill tells three national forest supervisors in the Sierra Nevada Range to revise their forest plans to incorporate the group's proposals over 4,000 square miles (2.5 million acres) of national forest - a land area twice as big as Yellowstone National Park.

If it passes the U.S. Senate, the supervisors will have 200 days to formulate a five-year pilot project. The project will aim to log about 9,000 acres per year of roaded, second-growth forests, and thin another 40,000 to 60,000 roaded acres annually to protect against fire.

It will also put 150,000 acres of roadless, old-growth land off-limits to logging, protect all trees over 30 inches in diameter, and provide extra-wide buffer zones against streams.

Environmentalists outside of Quincy have reacted negatively. They like parts of the plan, but object to its expense, the money it might pull from other forests, the greatly increased logging, and the geographic scale. Most of all, they object to passing laws to manage individual forests - especially laws written by what they see as a local, narrowly based special-interest group.

Giddy with victory

The national environmentalists made these arguments to Congress, but they didn't carry the day, and the July 29 meeting in Quincy was almost giddy as a result of the victory. Several participants were just back from Washington, D.C., and at one point they half-seriously argued over whether this was the time to make peace or to "bayonet the wounded." (They decided to try to make peace.)

Aside from riffs like this, the most interesting moments came when what had been a united team broke into two opposing sides - industry and environmentalists - and played against each other over the congressional bill to knock roading money out of the national forest budget, and over Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's forest-health bill.

For much of the meeting, the group's lead environmentalist, attorney Michael Jackson, sat by himself, working on a questionnaire from Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., who is concerned that the bill would throw away the normal process of managing national forests. Jackson would move back to the table now and again, once to jokingly rebuke the timber executives and county supervisors for failing to hold their party - the Republicans - in the House. (The lone nay vote was Texas Republican Ron Paul.)

At one point, Jackson took the ball and just played by himself, scoring baskets by recalling the 10 years in which, he said, the Forest Service kept Quincy and most of the 500-mile-long Sierra Nevada Range at war by pretending that there were huge amounts of timber to be cut.

Others at the table - many of whom Jackson had battled for more than a decade - let him go until he had run down, although they did try to hasten that process by chiming in with a few amens.

"Working-class gorgeous"

There is nothing about Quincy, pop. 5,000, to tell a casual observer that the environmental movement's most serious challenge in decades may be starting here.

Quincy looks like the logging town it has been since the turn of the century. Trees grow thickly right up to the back of house lots, and although the town is 90 minutes north and west of Lake Tahoe, and four hours north and east of the Bay Area, it still looks rural.

But change is coming, Jackson said after the meeting, and you can see it in the coffee shops. "Bob's Fine Food closes at 9 a.m. because their customers have gone to work. It has customers starting at 4:30 a.m., when we newcomers (Jackson has been in Quincy since 1977) are still asleep." Bob's serves the kind of coffee that comes in round cans; Morning Thunder opens later in the morning and serves cappuccino and espresso.

Though Quincy has growing numbers of new people, this is not the Sierra Nevada that inspired the creation of the Sierra Club. QLG member Linda Blum calls it "working-class gorgeous." A climb takes you to the tops of softly rounded mountains covered with trees, rather than into the tundra and peaks that characterize the Sierra Nevada Range south of here.

Quincy is not as rough or sprawling as some of its neighboring towns, but neither is it busted. California lost 60 timber mills in the last decade, according to the California Forestry Association. Quincy has one of the 61 survivors: a huge Sierra Pacific Industries mill now retooled to cut small timber. From Monday to Friday, Quincy's two one-way main streets are dominated by logging trucks on their way to and from that mill.

But these are not the good old days of the 1980s. Today each truck off public land is likely to carry 10 to 20 relatively small logs; before the California spotted owl, trucks would lug their way through town with only one to three logs of mammoth size.

In those days, Jackson said in an interview, when a truck carried a particularly large log, the driver might drive around the block that had his office on it, taunting the environmental litigator with the sight of another fallen giant, before stopping for a celebratory beer at a bar on the town's main street.

There's another difference, Jackson said. "These days, when people wave at me, they use all five fingers."

Jackson and his allies gave as good as they got during the timber wars. "We blamed and ridiculed our neighbors. There was sugar in the tanks of logging equipment. And they responded in the normal way, including gunshot wounds to windows."

Not conventional consensus

If consensus conveys a smiley-faced image of people sitting around a table making sure everyone is in agreement, the Quincy Library Group isn't consensus.

Not everyone is at the table. The few Forest Service people at the July 29 meeting sat silently on chairs against the wall, while the group's 20 or so members sat at a central table.

Also missing are national and regional environmental groups, who have achieved a consensus of their own. One hundred and forty groups - some from as far away as Alabama and North Carolina, as well as 35 California groups and Western regional groups like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Pacific Rivers Council - oppose the bill.

Finally, the group is very definitely led: by Jackson; by former Plumas County Supervisor Bill Coates, who just resigned his elected position to become a coach at the local Feather River Community College; and by Tom Nelson, chief forester at Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns the Quincy mill and other California mills.

Jackson, the group's tactician and its major representative to the outside world, describes himself as practicing "catch and release" law. He sues environmental agencies for breaking environmental laws, collects his fees from them, and then lets them go, to bring him another fee at some later time. The other half of his time, he says, goes to the Quincy Library Group, for which he does not get paid. "It's the most expensive project I've ever been involved with."

Coates moderates the meeting. As Plumas County supervisor, Coates used to spend a fair amount of time flying to Washington, D.C., to plead for bigger cuts off the local national forest - his county of 20,000 has depended on federal timber receipts as well as on local taxes paid by the timber industry. Over the last four years, he has been flying to D.C. with his former opponents to lobby on behalf of the group's positions. Initially, the relationships were uneasy. The spouse of one environmental member of the group recalls that she used to cross the street to avoid Coates and his comments.

The third leader, Nelson, works for the largest private landowner in California, with 1.4 million acres. Sierra Pacific Industries is California's Weyerhaeuser or Plum Creek in terms of scale.

Creative environmentalists

The Quincy Library Group is a direct result of the creativity and foresight of a relatively small number of local environmentalists, banded together as the Friends of the Plumas Wilderness. In the mid-1980s, when huge logs were pouring off the local forests, the beleaguered greens designed an alternative to cutting old-growth trees. According to Jackson, the approach was put together with research help from The Wilderness Society and forest economist Randal O'Toole, legal help from the Natural Resources Defense Council, and, in the appeals and litigation stage, with the Sierra Club as plaintiff.

The 1986 proposal called for putting all remaining roadless areas into a preserve, with logging restricted to roaded, second-growth land.

Mike Yost, a forestry professor at the local Feather River College, recalls the computer and map work that led to the plan: "We basically protected all the land we could - streams, roadless area, old growth - and then told the computer to thin the remaining (roaded) forest heavily. We were trying to show there was volume out there."

They proposed doing the thinning with group selection, which Yost describes as "clear-cuts from a tenth of an acre to a couple of acres." These are small enough to be reseeded by the surrounding older trees, leading eventually to an uneven-aged forest. At the time, Yost said, the Forest Service was using "40-acre clearcuts followed by herbicide spraying."

The Plumas National Forest considered the alternative as part of its forest plan revision, then rejected it in favor of business as usual. But the agency's adopted plan did not get very far. Even though George Bush was in the White House, timber sales began to decline in the late 1980s. Jackson says the forest plans were frauds, written as if Congress were going to pour money on the forests even though the agency knew it wouldn't.

When federal timber stopped coming off the forests, and mills in the surrounding area began to close, Quincy got hot. Sierra Pacific Industries closed its mill during public hearings so that angry workers could attend, store owners put up yellow ribbons in their windows as a sign of solidarity with timber, and "things got scary," says Yost.

Jackson says, "The environmental community wasn't going to be intimidated, so we were filing appeals on every timber sale."

Then came the owl. In 1993, the Forest Service imposed regulations to protect the California spotted owl, a relative of the northern spotted owl. Linda Blum says the California spotted owl regulations (CASPO, in the jargon) meant the end of business as usual on the local forests: no clear-cuts, no even-aged management of forests, no cutting trees over 30 inches in diameter (old-growth trees can be 7 feet in diameter), and no cuts that opened up too much of the forest canopy.

Even before CASPO, some in the Sierra Nevada timber industry could see that the old game was over, and that maybe the environmentalists' 1986 proposal hadn't been so bad. In fall 1992, Plumas County Supervisor Bill Coates put in a call to his political archenemy, Michael Jackson.

As Jackson tells it, "Mr. Coates said, "All right, we're through. We've got to do something new. Will you meet with the mill owners?" "

That wasn't an easy question. After 12 years of Reagan-Bush policy that had wreaked havoc on the forests, logging was nearly shut down. Moreover, national politics had just taken a sharp turn: Clinton was president-elect and the future looked green. But healing wounds in the community was also attractive, especially if industry was willing to agree to the 1986 alternative. Jackson and his allies signed on for at least a short ride.

The ride started with "three meetings in the back room of my office," says Jackson. They were supposed to be secret. But, Jackson says, "it was clear to everyone that something was going on, and (secrecy) wasn't acceptable to anyone."

So the next meeting, he says, was a six-hour one in the Quincy Library, where everyone could see it and listen in. (One myth says they met in the library so that no one could shout; another says they met there because local timber people were fearful of being seen going into Jackson's office; a third says the library had a room available.)

In spring 1993, the conspirators called a meeting for the public and 250 people came to the Town Hall Theatre. After explaining what was afoot, the leaders asked for a straw vote. Jackson says, "Five wanted to stay the way we were; the rest wanted to move ahead." Two of the opponents were Jackson's, Blum's and Yost's old allies at the Friends of the Plumas Wilderness; three were with the timber industry.

Jackson, who is not always gentle with his rhetoric, calls the people on the fringe "wingnuts," and says they play the role of keeping the center together.

With what it took as a public imprimatur, the QLG went to work, and in June 1993 published its Community Stability Proposal, based on the environmentalists' 1986 plan. Its most important act was implicit: it laid claim to 2.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada public land - all of the Plumas and Lassen national forests and the Sierraville Range District of the Tahoe.

The plan had something for everybody. Industry would get wood from 1.6 million acres of managed land (another 1 million acres were in various reserves, including wilderness) and communities would get jobs and fire protection. Environmentalists would get preservation of 148,000 acres of roadless, old-growth land that was, and still is, part of the three forests' timber base. They would also get expanded protection of riparian zones and an end to 40-acre clear-cuts in favor of small openings, less than 2 acres in size, in the forest.

The plan also had aesthetic and landscape goals. QLG members argue that the small-patch logging and thinning will eventually return at least the drier parts of the forests to the open, brush-free state, dominated by large trees, that the first settlers found.

Jackson says of the bargaining that led to the QLG approach: "The only thing I gave up was my prejudices."

SNEP, CASPO and all that

An agreement in principle is one thing. Translating it onto the ground is quite another. So the group, Blum says, set about educating itself by bringing in scientists: the ones working on the (still not finished) California spotted owl EIS, the ones working on the $6.8 million Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (published in 1996), and well-known experts like Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington and Norm Johnson of Oregon State University. The group also spent a lot of time with certain Forest Service specialists; its approach to fire was taken from the work of Bob Olson, fire specialist on the Lassen National Forest.

Once the group had a sense of how to implement its principles, the members asked the three forests to amend their forest plans to achieve its goals. Michael Kossow, who runs a water-quality consulting firm out of Taylorsville, a wide-spot town near Quincy, remembers a February 1994 trip to Washington to talk to top Forest Service and administration officials.

"When we went to D.C. three years ago, (then Forest Service chief) Jack Ward Thomas told all three forest supervisors to go back and start forest plan amendments' to examine and possibly adopt the QLG's ideas.

"I was sitting right there. I heard it." (See Jim Lyons' sidebar, linked below at end of article.)

But over the next two years, nothing happened, Kossow says, and that led to the groups' anti-agency stance. "I think they got frustrated. They expected things to happen."

Kossow also says, "We knew that Thomas met with the supervisors alone the next day. It may be that he told them something different at that time."

HCN reporter Ray Ring interviewed Jack Ward Thomas last spring in Missoula, Mont., after he had retired. Thomas told Ring that he disliked almost everything about the Quincy Library Group, especially the fact that Sierra Pacific Industry was involved, and that Thomas' political boss, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, was backing it.

Thomas said, "(Red) Emmerson, who owns Sierra Pacific, is involved in the Quincy Library Group, which is patently illegal. They're a nonprofit charter, and they're violating, not following, the forest plan. But the secretary of Agriculture just turns around and says: "OK, you guys can manage these two and a half national forests."

"They're not properly chartered, and they're sitting there cutting deals back and forth ... I like co-operation, but I don't like Emmerson; who the hell turned over my national forests to him?"

The Quincy Library Group members didn't know Thomas' feelings, but they could see that the local forests weren't implementing their plan fast enough to suit them. So in 1996, members began flying back and forth to Washington, D.C., to lobby for a bill.

The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council and various California environmental groups had been keeping a distant eye on the QLG, mainly by talking with Jackson and Blum. But the shift from lobbying the Forest Service to lobbying Congress got the national groups' full attention. They saw the QLG setting a precedent of piecemeal national legislation for individual forests that would inevitably lead to the over-riding of environmental laws.

So in early 1997, a series of tense and often angry negotiations, moderated by Undersecretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons, took place in California between the environmental members of the QLG and representatives of national and California environmental groups. The non-QLG environmentalists wanted a smaller geographic scale, a slower pace, and - above all - no legislation.

Linda Blum says, "We resisted that. We'd been waiting for four years for the administrative solution, and had gotten nothing but excuses and obfuscation and sabotage by various persons working for the U.S. Forest Service at various levels."

Louis Blumberg of The Wilderness Society in San Francisco is not impressed by the QLG's impatience:

"We have all spent many years waiting for the Forest Service to make changes. It's slow to change, but to say that because the QLG is unable to have their plan adopted within two years is testimony to a failure of forest planning - I can't buy that. They're only one special interest group." He also says that the three forests have been implementing the QLG's program. "Last year, 40 percent of the project was done."

Blumberg says that the QLG plan would double logging on the three forests, to 250 million board-feet, and that the estimated $83 million the plan would cost would take away scarce resources from other national forests.

In addition to the threatening precedent of overturning normal forest planning, Blumberg says, there's the scale: "The Quincy Library Group's bill covers one-third of the Sierra Nevada." He believes the bill will fragment any attempt to manage the Sierra Nevada Range in a holistic way.

Jackson understands the fear of setting a precedent. He says the timber industry people on the QLG, as well as Western Republicans in the House, feared the precedent of outlawing clear-cutting and entry into roadless areas, while strengthening riparian protection.

The plan

The Quincy Library Group's approach is audacious. It is a pilot project that aims to return almost 3 percent of California to what it calls a pre-settlement state. Back in 1908, when the just-formed Lassen National Forest surveyed its domain, 70 percent of the land was in trees over 30 inches. Today, only 13 percent is.

Instead of the 20 to 30 old and large trees that dominated an acre in the drier parts of the 1908 forest, much of today's forest consists of a thicket of 1,000 or more small trees per acre, with dead ones on the ground or leaning against the living trees. In the past, fire would have periodically pruned the dead and smaller trees, the group argues, leaving the way open for a small number of survivors to grow large and old.

But fire suppression and overgrazing have stopped the 10 or so low-intensity fires that would have moved through the drier parts of the forest this century, and the three or so fires that would have struck the wetter, higher, more western parts of the forest, according to fire specialist Olson of the Lassen. The resulting accumulation of fuel, especially in the drier forests, rules out setting a match to the forest, or letting lightning-caused fires burn themselves out. The fear is that even small fires will quickly grow to catastrophic, landscape-scale conflagrations that will destroy all trees and habitat.

The QLG bill prescribes two simultaneous approaches to reduce the threat and create an open, older forest. To protect against catastrophic fires, 40,000 to 60,000 acres per year would be cleared of leaning dead trees, some individual young trees, and some deadfall. Olson says the sites would be cleaned up enough to prevent fire from climbing into the forest crown, but not so much that ground fires couldn't burn.

The QLG bill calls for the work to be done initially in quarter-mile-wide corridors that would parallel existing roads. (Olson, who has been working on this plan for several years, says no new roads would be needed on the Lassen.) The corridors would surround watersheds of up to 14,000 acres. The hope is that these corridors would limit the size of fires by providing so-called defensible fuel-break zones, where firefighting would be easier and safer. Once the corridors were completed, the thinning would move into the large blocks of trees defined by the corridors.

George Terhune, a retired pilot who has made himself the group's fire expert, says that the lack of many young trees and leaning dead trees would deprive fire of a path into the forest canopy. Fires would be forced down into the brush or duff on the forest floor, where they would be easier to control.

The removal of deadfall and of small trees and brush would produce some wood for sawmills, but mostly it would produce very small trees whose economic use depends on the development of an ethanol or oriented-strandboard industry. The QLG says it is trying to attract such companies to its area. But at least in the beginning, this work would require subsidies of $100 to $500 an acre, Olson estimates.

The second part of the QLG's bill would provide trees for sawmills through the very small clear-cuts created by group selection. About 10,000 acres of the 1.6 million managed acres would be logged each year by group selection. The QLG says each acre would be logged every 175 years, but Blumberg estimates that the rotation cycle would be much shorter.

Environmental opponents also argue that it would be hugely expensive, that it would not stop large fires, that it is an enormous experiment being done without adequate science, that it would require new road construction, and that it would double the amount of wood being logged. Finally, opponents say, group selection has often been used to strip forests of their large trees under the guise of opening small plots.

If the bill becomes law, these issues will be argued out in an environmental impact statement required by the bill. The staffs of the three forests will have 200 days to investigate the group's proposal, modify it, and figure out how to implement it. John Preschutti, an area resident and former ally of Jackson, Blum and Yost, says he will participate in the EIS process but he doesn't expect to influence it.

"We're at a disadvantage already, because the law will mandate the Quincy Library Group plan," Preschutti says. "So one group has been placed above another. We local people have been sidestepped."

Neil Dion, another local environmentalist, thinks Jackson is making the same mistake the Forest Service did when it drew up its forest plans. "It's a fantasy that they think there is going to be money and resources' and perseverance to do the fire protection. "They will go in and cut the trees and forget about it, and after 30 years we'll be back where we started."

Back to the past

Which brings the story back to the U.S. Forest Service - a weakened, disoriented agency that used to run the national forests. Today, the forests are run by judges, by environmentalists working through the Clinton administration, and by the timber industry working through Congress.

Jackson believes that because no one how to manage the forests, all sides in Congress hack away at the Forest Service. The Republicans attack science, recreation, and implementation of wildlife protection. The Democrats go after roading and other natural-resource budget items. The result is a shrinking agency that spends much of its time wondering when the next blow will fall.

Jackson may understand why the agency is powerless to set a course on the ground. But he can't resist needling its line officers. "I ask them to tell me which GS-7 (a relatively low job rank) runs this outfit and I will go talk to them."

Kent Connaughton, supervisor on the Lassen National Forest, says Jackson doesn't understand the agency if he is looking for a prime mover. "The Forest Service is akin to an organism" and no one individual can move it. Everyone, Connaughton says, has to want to move in the same direction.

At the moment, that sense of purpose is gone. Until recently, timber provided what Connaughton calls a "clarity" of mission. Now the agency is searching for a replacement:

"We're concerned with the biological condition over large landscapes," he says. "I have an idea about where this landscape needs to go - toward the more natural conditions that once existed. But there is still great chaos in how to do it." He says there are also a welter of laws, regulations, court decisions and micro-budgeting from Congress that hinder a forest from moving decisively in any one direction.

Within that big picture, Connaughton says, the Quincy Library Group proposal looks helpful. "When you work through the Congress, you get the validation of the American people. It says that these are a valid set of priorities that we expect you to follow. I appreciate that kind of clarity. It simplifies my life."

Connaughton is getting a jump on the bill; the Lassen staff has been at work for a year on the QLG's general approach to fire control.

Mark Madrid, the supervisor on the Plumas, is more guarded. He says the bill is a very broad prescription, with the real work still to come. "The meat is going to be in the EIS." But he can see one need: "Our analysis shows it will generate income over the long term. But we will need start-up money."

The challenge to the greens

The timber industry and local Sierra Nevada government were driven into Michael Jackson's office by numbers. Through the fat years of the 1980s, the Forest Service sold from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion board-feet of timber every year, making California the number two federal timber state in the nation.

Then, starting in the Bush administration and continuing under Clinton, timber volume plummeted throughout California. In 1996, only 400 million board-feet were sold in the state - about 25 percent of the total in the 1980s. The decline was mirrored locally on the Lassen and Plumas forests.

If the timber struggle had been a declared war, industry would have sued for peace. But there was no one to surrender to. The timber wars are dispersed, without fixed goals. The industry wants all the forests it can get, and the environmentalists want all the forest protection they can get.

In the past, the Forest Service brokered the dispute, but the agency no longer can. Its power has been dispersed to the courts, to the administration and to Congress. And none of them were available to settle a dispute in an obscure corner of the Sierra Nevada Range.

So the local combatants were forced to deal directly with each other or to remain in perpetual struggle and gridlock. Quincy was not the only place facing that situation. When the timber industry approached the environmentalists in 1992, collaboration and consensus efforts were rare in the West, but they were beginning, and today the West has hundreds of them. They include watershed partnerships like the Henry's Fork Foundation in Idaho, grazing collaboratives like the working groups in central Oregon and the more official Resource Advisory Councils set up by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, other timber collaboratives like the Applegate Partnership and the environmentalist-timber industry attempt to reintroduce grizzlies into central Idaho.

Some of these are true consensus groups, bringing almost everyone to the table. But others divide as much as they unite by destroying old relationships as they strive to create new ones. Rancher Doc Hatfield of Oregon, who formed one of the earliest such groups (HCN, 3/23/92), says he avoids the word consensus: "These are really collaborative pressure groups. The proposals or strategies that come out of such groups are stronger than the ones coming out of a single interest group because each participant in a collaborative knows how to bullet-proof things against its own side, while a proposal from a special-interest group always has enormous blind spots."

Michael Jackson refers to the way in which diversity leads to strength and divisiveness in different terms: "The environmentalists are mad at me because they think I'm teaching science to the rednecks."

Bonnie Phillips, the head of WaterWatch in Seattle and an observer of collaborative groups, says the Quincy Library Group may be the worst enemy consensus and collaboration ever had because of its decision to go the legislative route.

She says, "The other collaborative processes will be seen as incredibly tainted" by what is happening with Quincy. And the timber industry, she predicts, will experience a backlash because of the way it has manipulated the process for its own ends.

The need, she believes, is to put a foundation under collaboration. "The environmental community has to come up with a set of guidelines and principles about when collaboration is appropriate." On the practical level, environmentalists should be trained in hard bargaining. And funding, she says, should be made available to allow environmentalists to participate on an equal basis with industry and government.

She also says, "You have to be careful not to play this as the national groups vs. the grass roots. National environmental groups don't tell local groups what to do."

Terry Terhaar, now a graduate student at Yale Forestry School, has a different perspective. The former Sierra Club regional vice president for Northern California and Nevada, Terhaar attended Quincy Library Group meetings from March to December 1995, monitoring them as part of her job with the Pacific Rivers Council. She says, "I think there's a lot of fear among environmentalists, especially of the Congress, and for good reason."

But she says another reason for the harsh reaction to the QLG has to do with the structure of the environmental movement. "We all really talked a good line about wanting to help grassroots activity, but what we really wanted was their letter of support for a bill.

"In my work, I was somewhere in between the national staffs and the state organizations, and I know that a lot of the national staffs don't have time to get involved in gritty details. So if something comes along that they don't like, the easiest thing is for them to blow it out of the water."

Terhaar is especially bothered by environmentalist attacks on QLG, and particularly on Linda Blum. With her husband, Harry Reeves, Blum has been the ultimate unpaid, grass-roots environmentalist, whose credentials include service on the board of the Western Ancient Forest Campaign. But that, Terhaar says, has not protected her from attack.

Like Bonnie Phillips, Terhaar predicts a backlash, but not against the timber industry. Terhaar says it will be against the campaign that galvanized 140 groups to oppose the QLG. "It's not at all hard to collect a bunch of names - you just say, "Oh, my god, the sky is falling' - and people sign on. You trust those you think are of like mind.

"I predict that when this is all over, some of those grassroots activists are going to sit back and think about what happened. Because Linda Blum is a friend of mine and she's a friend of theirs. And they will say: 'This could happen to me.' "

Ed Marston is publisher of High Country News.

Note: the following sidebar articles accompany this feature story:

- We may be seeing the devolution of the environmental movement

- The stress was very heavy

- My experience with the Quincy group wasn't positive

- I was always welcomed there

- We're much stronger together

RESOURCES

* The Quincy Library Group Web site has many of the group's proposals and papers, the House and Senate versions of the group's bill, meeting schedules and the like. It also provides links to other sites, including the three local national forests. It is at: www.qlg.org.

* The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project was a $6.8 million study of the entire Sierra Nevada Range, completed in 1996. The enormous report is on line, including the backup papers, at http://ceres.ca.gov/snep/

* Michael Jackson can be reached at 916/283-1007; Linda Blum at 916/283-1230; Sierra Pacific Industries at 916/378-8000; Rose Comstock of California Women in Timber at 916/283-5576; David Edelson of the Natural Resources Defense Council at 415/777-0220; Michael Yost of Feather River College at 916/283-0202; Lee Anne Taylor, public affairs director on the Plumas National Forest, at 916/283-7890; Dave Reider, public affairs officer on the Lassen National Forest, at 916/257-2151; and Matt Mathes, regional press officer for the Pacific Southwest region of the U.S. Forest Service, at 415/705-2868.