Just ask the loggers

  Though environmentalists feared the worst when President Clinton signed a controversial timber-salvage law this summer, the Forest Service told them not to worry: The agency would take every precaution to protect the environment. A memo sent to regional foresters Sept. 21 from the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., suggests otherwise.

Citing a lack of government employees who know how to prepare timber sales, the memo encourages regional offices "to take advantage of assistance offered by the timber industry. They have indicated they are more than willing to make suggestions, go in the field with your people, and provide input which will help achieve our objectives."

Logging critics were outraged. "It amounts to an admission that the public no longer has national forests - the timber industry does," said John Gatchell of the Montana Wilderness Association.

"I can tell you how I would read that when it came to me," said Ernie Nunn, former supervisor of the Helena National Forest in Montana. "It's a license to steal."

The memo's author, David Hessel, director of the Forest Service's timber management program, stressed it was not meant to override environmental concerns or public involvement. Hessel said it applies to technical advice, such as how to log steep slopes. - Warren Cornwall

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