Congress pushes unfettered salvage logging

  A measure that forces the Forest Service to nearly double the timber harvest on national forests over the next two years is buzzing through Congress.


The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the controversial amendment to the appropriations recision bill 275-150. Now it heads to the Senate where environmentalists hope to extricate the so-called Taylor-Dicks amendment, named after its authors, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and Rep. Charles Taylor, R-N.C.


The amendment mandates a salvage logging program of 3.2 billion board-feet for each of the next two years, almost double the total volume offered from the national forest in FY 1994. Salvage is defined as dead and dying timber. It also suspends "all applicable laws' including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Protection Act.


The timber industry says the bill would generate jobs for economically depressed timber communities while lessening the potential for catastrophic wildfire. Environmentalists charge it allows timber companies unchallengeable access to roadless areas, and forces the Forest Service to cut trees even if sales lose money or damage the environment.


"It seems the more outrageous the legislation is, the better chance it has to pass the House," says Andy Stahl, executive director of the Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.


The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a recision bill March 24 that includes a logging amendment broader than the one included in the House bill. In addition to exempting salvage logging from environmental laws, the measure would exempt live tree sales in the spotted owl forests of the Pacific Northwest.


Meanwhile, the Clinton administration, which opposes the legislation but has not indicated whether it would veto the entire recision bill, announced March 15 that it will adopt procedural changes to speed up salvage sales by two to four months.


*Paul Larmer