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forest defense | save the biscuit

Senator Wyden Enters Forest Fire Fray! -- New legislation adds fuel to fire debate

ONRC Alert #149 - July 03, 2003.
Congress continues its misguided efforts to speed logging to reduce fire risk. After the grossly misnamed "Healthy Forests Restoration Act" (HR 1904) was rushed through the House, it received a hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Two new bills were then introduced in the Senate last week.

Senators Bingaman and Daschle announced their "Collaborative Forest Health Act" on June 24. On June 26, Senators Wyden and Feinstein released their bill, which they designed "to obtain the 60 votes needed" to pass the closely divided Senate. Both the Bingaman/Daschle bill and the Wyden/Feinstein bill have commendable elements but several troubling sections render them unsupportable in their present form.

The Bingaman/Daschle legislation would broaden the government's ability to ignore the public, avoid environmental analysis, and could promote logging in old-growth and roadless forests far from the rural communities threatened by fire. The Bingaman/Daschle bill also unnecessarily blocks citizen's right to appeal agency actions and limits the ability of the courts to enforce environmental laws.
Positive elements of the Wyden/Feinstein bill:

The Wyden/Feinstein bill includes language that may protect old-growth forests and Inventoried Roadless Areas.
The Wyden/Feinstein bill provides $3.8 billion to pay for fuel reduction projects thereby reducing the incentive to log large, fire-resistant trees.
The Wyden/Feinstein bill focuses most, but not all, logging in the Community Protection Zone (CPZ) - the mile around communities where fuel reduction treatments are most likely to protect lives and property.
Troubling elements of the Wyden/Feinstein bill:

The Wyden/Feinstein bill constricts the timeline for citizen appeals and eliminates your right to comment on environmental assessments.
The Wyden/Feinstein bill could accelerate logging in municipal watersheds.
The Wyden/Feinstein bill mandates an ill-defined salvage logging "pilot project" for the 500,000 acres of Oregon's forests affected by last year's Biscuit Fire.
The Wyden/Feinstein bill weakens the judiciary's ability to stop dangerous logging projects.
The Wyden/Feinstein bill unnecessarily allows the expansion of the CPZ to 3/4 miles and allows accelerated logging outside the CPZ, including municipal watersheds.
When viewed in total, these elements diminish the credibility of the Wyden/Feinstein bill and make it unacceptable. However, if these contentious sections are modified or removed, the remaining legislation could protect both rural communities and our old-growth forests and the wildlife they shelter.

What you can do:

Call Senator Wyden's office today! He is visiting Oregon this week and needs to hear your concerns.

His Portland office number is: Phone: (503) 326-7525 Fax: (503) 326-7528

Thank him for working to pass a rational fuels reduction bill. Then ask him to:

Focus all fuel reduction activities within a mile Community Protection Zone (CPZ).
Retain existing environmental safeguards outside the CPZ, including municipal watersheds.
Remove the Biscuit Fire Salvage Logging Pilot Project language entirely. The fire was mostly restorative, not destructive. National fire legislation is no place for a test project with expedited salvage logging.
Maintain citizens' rights to comment on Draft Environmental Assessments.
Protect judicial fairness by maintaining the courts' wide latitude when enforcing environmental laws.

homepage: homepage: http://www.onrc.org/alerts/149.wyden.html