Can a salvage sale save the trees?

  For the first time in the history of the Forest Service, the high bidder of a timber sale has no intention of felling the trees. The Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Bellingham, Wash., bid $29,000 for the Thunder Mountain salvage sale, a 275-acre roadless tract in Washington's Okanogan National Forest.

But the Forest Service may not go through with the sale. Agency sale leader Don Rose says the sale is part of a Forest Service plan to provide timber to local mills, and the alliance's bid will probably be rejected if the group maintains its position of refusing to log.

"For any high bidder to come in and decide what to do with the land short-circuits ... the Forest Service plan," says Rose.

The agency had trouble finding bidders for the sale, Rose says, but after lowering the price and the environmental standards for the project it was able to lure two bidders besides the conservation group.

The new salvage logging rider prevented the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance from opposing the sale in other ways, says Evan Frost, ecologist for the organization, so "one of our few tools is to put our money where our mouth is."

Although the group knows it may not win the contract, it is proceeding with a public "adopt-an-acre" program to raise money to pay for the trees. For information about the effort, call 800/878-9950.

*Jenny Emery

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