Option 9 survives

  In a rare environmental victory for the Clinton administration, a federal judge upheld the president's plan for protecting wildlife and allowing some timber cutting in the federal forests of the Pacific Northwest. Judge William Dwyer of Seattle, who said in 1991 that federal land managers had committed "deliberate, systematic" violations of environmental laws, ruled Dec. 21 that the administration's plan, known as Option 9, meets all legal requirements. Option 9 calls for the protection of some 80 percent of the region's remaining old-growth forests in the range of the endangered northern spotted owl, though some logging is allowed in these forests. The timber industry and environmental groups, both of which had urged Dwyer to reject the plan, were disappointed by the ruling. "(The decision) will never produce any meaningful timber for mills in the Northwest," Ralph Saperstein of the Northwest Forestry Association told the Seattle Times. The timber industry says it will pursue another lawsuit that challenges the process the administration followed in writing the plan. Environmentalists say they haven't decided whether to appeal. But they note that Dwyer indicated he could reverse his decision if the protective measures, studies and monitoring called for in the plan are not carried out. Whether the plan is fully implemented depends on the amount of money Congress appropriates for it this year.