Campaign politics and the prospect of widespread summer protests in the national forests are pushing President Clinton toward dismantling the salvage-logging rider he signed into law last summer.
Though the president has
admitted before that he miscalculated the effects of the "logging
without laws' bill, his actions in recent weeks have many convinced
that a legislative fix is imminent.
On a late
February tour of flooded Washington state, the president said that
he wants to repeal at least the parts of the law that allow the
cutting of healthy old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. A
fact sheet released by the White House Feb. 27 outlines concerns
about clearing ancient forests under the salvage logging portion of
the bill. It calls on timber companies holding old-growth sales
contracts to "hold off on any more cutting until we find another
way to honor their contract rights."
Environmentalists are pushing for a total repeal
of the salvage rider. They expect the president to negotiate with
Western lawmakers in the next few weeks, devising language that
will be attached to an unresolved spending bill. Already, Sen. Mark
Hatfield, R-Ore., has inserted a provision in the Interior
Appropriations bill that would for a short time broaden the
president's ability to buy out timber contracts or offer substitute
timber for controversial sales. Similar language is in the House
But the Interior bill has been packaged
with three other spending bills that need to be signed to avoid
another government shutdown. As of this writing, it is unclear
whether the president will veto the package.
"They want to fix it this spring before this
whole thing blows up," says Steve Holmer, the Washington,
D.C.-based coordinator for the Western Ancient Forest Campaign.
Environmentalists, furious because logging under
the existing law is exempt from appeal, are worried about the
extent of Clinton's changes. A fix that stops the most highly
visible old-growth cutting in Oregon and Washington could blunt
some of the criticism the White House has received since the
salvage rider's passage last June.
environmentalists are working hard to show that salvage sales in
other parts of the country are equally bad. Through daily bulletins
to activists and media, they have documented dozens of proposed
sales, including some green-timber sales in roadless areas that the
Forest Service has pulled off the shelf and repackaged as salvage
sales. Most of the sales, according to the activists, will lose
money and cause extensive damage to wildlife and water
"For every ancient forest sale there
will be another 10 salvage sales offered, and probably five of
those will be bad sales," says Holmer. "The last thing Clinton
wants is to be in California this summer - a state he really needs
- and have everyone say, "well, you fixed things for the people in
Oregon and Washington, but not for us." This thing is not going
So far, the environmentalists have
convinced 126 members of the House to sign on to legislation
sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Furse, D-Ore., that would totally
repeal the salvage rider. In mid-March, Democratic Sens. Bill
Bradley, N.J., and Barbara Boxer, Calif., introduced a similar bill
with eight cosponsors.
But the middle ground in
the repeal effort may be forged by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, D,
who has her own version of repeal which is backed by some
Murray's provision would
return to citizens their right to appeal timber sales and sue the
Forest Service. But, in a concession to the timber industry, it
would also shorten the length of time the agency takes to approve
For more information, contact the
Western Ancient Forest Campaign at 202/789-2844 or e-mail
WAFCDC@igc.apc.org, or contact the White House at 202/456-1111.
* Paul Larmer,