The battle isn't over

  Dear HCN:

Ed Marston may have been right in his Aug. 22 opinion article that environmentalists have won and there has been an amazing conversion at the Forest Service and BLM and the beasts of contention can now lie down together on Mr. Babbitt's holy middle ground. But where is the evidence?

Has he listened to Forest Service Chief Thomas since those first calls on his troops to tell the truth and obey the law? (What other department or service head has ever had to do that?) Does it mean nothing that Mr. Thomas has told some environmentalists that the old-growth reserves of Option 9 must be entered more aggressively than he had expected because the matrix (unprotected zones conveniently adjacent to timber monoculture towns) has already been hammered too hard? That Thomas has said he must target roadless areas in order to carry out forest plans?

And those "internal cultures' in the agencies: Are those real shifts or just shiftiness? Beginning with Dale Robertson we have heard of new perspectives, new forestry, ecosystem management and landscape management; now I've heard from biologists that they have been informed by Washington staff that those phrases are passé. The new terms are "intensive management" and, following that phrase's short life, "extensive management across ecosystems."

Does this make you dizzy? It should at least make one wary about the commitment of department secretaries and service heads to changing old policies.

Consider FEMAT, Option 9 and the near-certain further degradation of that operation's analyses. Look carefully as well at the Eastside Ecosystem Management Project (EEMP) now under way for the Columbia River Basin, including western Montana, Idaho and parts of Wyoming, Nevada and Utah. All the signs suggest that EEMP will be an even greater extravaganza trumpeting ecosystem management than was FEMAT and will be an even bigger bust for the idea of real ecosystem recovery than was the earlier charade. Just plain logging is replacing clearcutting in forest "eco-speak" here and in Idaho as a means of mimicking wildfire. Forest managers in this area see logging as a major "tool" in ecosystem management.

Much of it clearly will be salvage and will be exempt from appeals (HCN, 9/12/94). Indications are that some will feature removal of large old trees, including old growth, if declared to be susceptible to root rot, bugs, etc. and deemed to "endanger" a stand, watershed, landscape, ecosystem or life as we know it on Earth.

Consensus has its place but not on the West's plundered forests, streams and range. The condition of those lands demands that they be made whole, not split down the middle.

Ross Titus

Bigfork, Montana

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