Friday, November 19, 2004

Pacific Northwest: Bush ready to reshape federal forests

The president's second term promises several policy shifts that favor more Northwest logging

Thursday, November 18, 2004

MICHAEL MILSTEIN

President Bush enters his second term poised to refashion the Northwest's public forests, reviving some logging after its near collapse while curtailing environmental reviews that opponents use to restrain cutting.

His actions over the next four years may fell more old-growth trees, reconsider safeguards for the northern spotted owl and shrink the U.S. Forest Service -- the biggest federal land manager in Oregon and Washington.

Together the moves could rebalance federal land use by stressing logging for jobs and revenue -- and as a tool to clear overgrown, flammable stands.

Although forest issues received little notice during the presidential campaign, "there's very little doubt we're going to see comprehensive changes in the rules," said Michael Goergen, chief executive officer of the Society of American Foresters.

The administration laid the groundwork with subtle adjustments in regulations during the president's first term, when cutting rose only slightly. His second term is likely to leave a more lasting imprint, with policy shifts that include:

Making logging a top priority on 2.2 million federal acres in Western Oregon, and possibly dropping older forest reserves meant for wildlife.

More cutting of old-growth trees. The cutting was called for in the Clinton administration's 1994 Northwest Forest Plan but slowed by lawsuits and species safeguards.

Looking at industry arguments that the northern spotted owl and other protected species do not need extensive older forest reserves.

Reshaping the Forest Service into a smaller agency more focused on goals such as thinning fire-prone forests.

Tightening budgets will cost the agency jobs, and nearly half its staff becomes eligible for retirement in the next five years.

Undoing Clinton administration rules that put roadless national forest land off-limits; instead, letting state governors recommend how much of that land merits protection.

Appointment of federal judges more likely to let timber sales and other projects proceed even when challenged by activists....Read on

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