NORTHWEST


No one's holding their breath, but approval may be close for an interagency plan outlining management of 63 million acres of federal land across Idaho, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and western Montana (HCN, 6/23/97: New plan draws hisses, boos).


In the works for over six years, the hefty and ballyhooed Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management project calls for more protection for watersheds, less grazing, more prescribed burns, and thinning forests to achieve diversity.


Reaction to the $50 million proposal has been mixed. Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, R, says the document doesn't consider enough of the economic and cultural impacts to local communities. Environmentalists, who wanted more protection for endangered species and old-growth forests, say they are worn out from trying to inject environmental standards into the plan.


"This proposal represents the most unswerving and obdurate refusal to respond to input from the conservation community that I have ever witnessed," says Nathaniel Lawrence of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Members of the interagency team, however, say the plan will be successful in the long run. "This thing will take time to implement, but from what we've seen from pilot projects on the ground, it's feasible," says Andy Brunelle, a Forest Service employee who has worked on the plan for over five years.


The plan is available on the Web at www.icbemp.gov/eis. Public comment must be sent by July 6 either to the Web site or to SDEIS, P.O. Box 420, Boise, ID 83701-0420.