Will timber plan fly?

  The Clinton administration's final plan for Northwest forests was delayed for release until March 31, but a Feb. 23 summary reveals it hasn't much changed since last July when it was first proposed. The plan calls for annual federal timber sales of 1.05 billion board feet across the range of the northern spotted owl. That's down from the previous version's 1.2 billion board feet. It also doubles the width of streamside buffers. Logging will be prohibited within 100 feet of small streams, up from 50 feet. Increased amounts of land will be set aside for wildlife, including the threatened spotted owl as well as marbled murrelets, bats and salamanders. Environmentalists praised the increased streamside protection, but note it still provides no certain protection for any specific stand of old-growth trees. "You can't have that high a cut and still have a legal plan," warns Jim Middaugh, spokesman for the Oregon Natural Resources Council. The group opposes logging in all spotted-owl forests. But Chris West, spokesman for the Northwest Forestry Association, says the plan breaks Clinton's promise to protect jobs as well as ecosystems. "They've caved in to the environmentalists," he says. Approval of the plan is up to federal Judge William Dwyer.