Undersecretary asks for old-growth logging end

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Thu Dec 14 03:17:09 EST 2000

>From The Oregonian, Dec. 13, 2000, p B1

Forest Service overseer seeks preservation of old growth
Undersecretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons ends his term with a request to
the timber industry to stop logging virgin forests


	The federal official who oversees the U.S. Forest Service has for
months been quietly urging private timber companies to do what tree-
sitters and other activists have long demanded much more vocally: stop
logging old-growth timber.
	Jim Lyons, completing his term as undersecretary of agriculture
reponsible for natural resource policy in the Clinton administration,
said last week during his final official visit to Portland that "it would
be a feather in the cap" of the timber inudstry to orchestrate an end to
old-growth logging.
	"I would suggest - and I've told this to some leaders in the timber
industry - I think it would be wise for the timber industry to step up to
the plate and at a minimum begin a dialogue toward that goal, if not
suggest some ways to address it," Lyons said in an interview with The
	His pitch to protect old growth marks a bold conclusion to his eight
years overseeing the U.S. Forest Service, during which he raised its
public and political profile as a federal land steward. Lyons kick-
started that transition in Portland just after taking office, organizing
President Clinton's 1993 forest summit that led t the Northwest Forest
Plan, a grand compromise between logging and wildlife protection.
	Lyons acknowledged last week that the jury was still out on the
success of that plan and that decades might pass before a verdict is
	But he predicted an end to old-growth logging on private and public
land within 10 years, in response to public sentiment. The timber
industry could capitalize on that sentiment, as it has with its
sustainable forestry initiative, by voluntarily swearing off logging in
the approximately 10 percent of original Northwest forests still
standing, he said.
	"No one's said no," Lyons said of the industry leaders he has
approached. "Some have kind of looked off and thought, 'I wonder.'"
	The Retooling of many sawmills to accept smaller and second-growth
logs, combined with greater knowledge of the wildlife dependent on old-
growth forests, has made logging of virgin timber stands unnecessary and
publicly unappealing, Lyons said.
	"The values of old growth, as the public is coming to understand
them and as we understand them scientifically, far exceed their value
solely for timber," he said. "I think it would be a feather in the cap of
industry to engage in a dialogue to end old-growth harvest and, at the
same time, work with mills that are dependent on old growth to develop
the technologies to harvest second growth and smaller-diameter material
and, frankly, capitalize on the technology an the markets that are out
	An aggressive program of thinning overgrown federal forests to
reduce wildfire hazard in coming years will provide timber to make up for
a diminishing voluem of old growth, he said.
	Although Lyons has staked out ambitious positions on environmental
issues before, his high-level message to the timber industry gives the
crusade against old-growth logging an air of legitimacy that protests and
banner-waving never could.
	"It does surprise me, because we don't normally hear that from such
a high level," said Ivan Maluski of American Lands Allinace in Portland,
a longtime foe of old-growth logging. "It's important when it's not just
the environmental community but decision-makers who recognize we are
running out of old-growth. Trees may be a renewable resource, but old
growth is not."
	Lyons' statements illustrate the outspokenness that has often earned
him the ire of Congress, which in its most recent budget legislation
stripped Lyons of his immediate authority over Forest Service Chief
Michael Dombeck. But that has not kept Lyons, a 45-year-old former
congressionql aide with a forestry and wildlife management degree, from
leading the charge for contentious proposals such as the Clinton
administration's plan to protect roadless reaches of national forests.
	"I think the fact that Congress took away his management of the
Forest Service shows you what serious questions there are about him,"
said Chris West of the American Forest Resources Council.
	But Harv Forsgren, the U.S. Forest Service's regional forester for
the Pacific Northwest, said the controversy surrounding the deputy
secretary arises from his "passion and his willingness to advance some
very significant conservation issues."
	"The list of his accomplishments is long and very impressive,"
Forsgren said.
	Lyons said he counts among his proudest accomplishments the
Northwest Forest Plan, a sweeping presidential mandate to set aside vast
tracts of federal forests while opening others to logging. During the
1993 forest summit, Lyons said, Clinton identified the Northwest's
"timber crisis" not as an environmental standoff but an economic one,
with small communities caught between a familiar economy dependent on
timber and a new economy with new sources of income.
	The Northwest Forest Plan was the first attempt to manage federal
lands thorughout an entire region as a complete landscape or ecosystem,
he said. Instead of measuring success by the timber that comes off public
land, agencies measure it now by what they leave on public land in the
way of forests, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities, he said.
	"I don't think the public is willing to see the agency start another
round of extensive roading or aggressive logging," Lyons said. "To the
contrary, the public is interested in an end to old-growth harvest, and I
think many in the industry are about htere as well."
	Industry giant Weyerhaeuser owns little forest land in the Northwest
that has not been logged before, so cutting of pristine forests in not a
common practice, spokesman Frank Mendizabal said. Although he did not
rule out the possibility that the company would cut small parcels of old-
growth timber on its land, he said Weyerhaeuser sometimes sets such
tracts aside or trades them into public ownership.

Comment by poster: I can see why Lyons would want to leave public office
at this time. I also see a relationship to the announcement today that
"W" is the next president of the United States. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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