fwd: SF Examiner ed. on logging roads

Kirk Johnson newkirk at olywa.net
Sat Jan 3 03:08:56 EST 1998

> ³The Enormous Toll Of Logging Roads² - San Francisco Examiner Editorial
> 12/29/97
> The federal government's approach to subsidizing logging roads is rooted
> in the past, back to the days when its goals were to promote settlement
> and to seed the economy in the West by exploiting its natural resources.
> There was a time when such policies might have made sense.
> They do not anymore.
> This continuation of an archaic approach to bankrolling the construction
> of logging roads is costing taxpayers many millions of dollars every year
> and is wreaking havoc on the environment.
> Consider the numbers. There are now about 380,000 miles of logging roads
> in national forests today -- eight times the length of the interstate
> highway system; enough to circle the globe 15 times. A White House study
> of 1995 timber sales showed that, when road subsidies are included, the
> U.S. spent $234 million more than it took in for its national-forest
> logging program.
> The defense of such subsidies is that these logging roads often double as
> fire trails and access for hikers, hunters, mountain bikers and other
> recreationalists. But the benefits must be weighed against the damage to
> the forests caused by an acceleration of logging and other human activity
> in pristine areas.
> The current road-subsidy system plainly encourages logging companies to
> build roads. Here's how it works: The companies get monetary credits for
> building roads to provide access to timber. The credits are based on the
> Forest Service's estimate of the cost of building the road, plus a profit
> margin of 10 to 15 percent. Companies never have to report the actual cost
> of building the road. The timber industry's eagerness to build roads
> should be a signal to Congress that this program is overly generous. But
> Congress this year narrowly rejected a proposal to significantly pare back
> the road-subsidy program. Not surprisingly, a recently released Common
> Cause study showed that timber industry groups gave more than $8 million
> in political contributions since 1991.
> Congress and the Clinton should cut back this form of corporate welfare
> and protect the environment by:
> -- Overhauling the road-credit program to establish a better level of
> accountability for its fiscal and environmental costs.
> -- Putting a moratorium on road construction and logging in roadless areas
> of 1,000 acres or more until the government makes a science-based
> assessment of its policies. These undisturbed areas provide critical
> habitat to wildlife, yet the Forest Service has been allowing timber
> companies to keep rolling into new terrain -- while reaping public
> subsidies for doing so. When roads start cutting through the trees, a
> forest begins to lose its value to sustain wildlife, to filter water, to
> protect against landslides and erosion. Roadless areas now represent just
> a fifth or less of national forest land in California -- and the threat to
> roadless areas is particularly acute with proposals for major timber sales
> in Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming.
> It's time to treat these areas as a resource to preserve. They are still
> valuable and productive without logging crews and equipment rumbling
> through them.
> Government waste is intolerable in any circumstance, but when a giveaway
> program is for the destruction of our national forests the policy becomes
> unconscionable.
> © The Chronicle Publishing Company

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