Response to the Wildfires Threatens to Increase Logging

wafcdc at wafcdc at
Mon Oct 2 16:37:01 EST 2000

From: "wafcdc at" <wafcdc at>
Subject: Response to the Wildfires Threatens to Increase Logging 

CONTACT:        Steve Holmer, 202/547-9105

Response to the Wildfires Threatens to Increase Logging

The Interior Appropriation Conference Report to be voted on by the House of
Representatives tomorrow, includes a massive increase in funding in response
to this year's fire season.  However, the funding from the Domenici
Amendment and the Administration's plan intended for mechanical fuels
reduction treatments lacks adequate environmental safeguards and could open
the door to a significant increase in timber volume being logged from public

"Without adequate environmental safeguards, fuels reduction service
contracts to remove trees could take place in roadless areas, old growth
forests, and endangered species habitats and could include the logging of
large fire-resistant trees," said Steve Holmer, campaign coordinator for
American Lands.  "The recent behavior of the Forest Service during the
Salvage Logging Rider and implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan
suggests that the kind of discretion found in this fuels reduction program
will be abused."  

"To ensure that funding is directed to help protect communities and homes,
all fuels reduction funds from both the Domenici Amendment and the
Administration Plan should be exclusively directed to the urban/wildlands
interface which is defined as the area 200 feet surrounding an inhabited
structure," said Holmer.  "This policy would be consistent with the findings
of recent Forest Service research concerning home protection.  We support
the Administration's proposal for programs in support of local communities
to educate homeowners and believe these funds could be increased." 

"The Interior conference further directs that $15 million in fuels reduction
funds shall be used to implement the Quincy Library Group Plan," said
Holmer.  "This Plan calls for extensive logging in the Sierra Nevada and is
strongly opposed by the environmental community."  

While conservationists support funding for restoring burned areas, we are
strongly opposed to any of these funds being used for salvage logging.  The
list of restoration activities should also be expanded include road
decommissioning and obliteration.  Additionally, all replanting of grasses
and other plants should be done with native species.

The Domenici Amendment also includes language providing the Administration
with an option to develop expedited NEPA procedures within the next 60 days.
"We are strongly opposed to any weakening of the current NEPA procedures and
public involvement in decision-making for fuels reduction projects," said
Holmer.  "The Administration should not use these expediting authorities."

"Given the large increase in funding for fuels reduction treatments provided
by the Domenici amendment, we do not feel any additional funds are needed
from the Administration's budget proposal," said Holmer.  "We urge the
Administration to shift the $85 million in hazardous fuels funds into fire
preparedness to pay for needed fire management plans, assistance to private
landowners to fireproof their homes, and restoration."  

"Currently only 5% of the National Forests have completed fire management
plans which were mandated by the Fire Management Policy of 1995," said
Timothy Ingalsbee Ph.D., Director of the Western Fire Ecology Center.  "If
the Forest Service had complied with the policy and created fire plans, the
catastrophe at Los Alamos and the severity of this year's fire season could
have been avoided or reduced.  We support the majority of the $120 million
going toward implementation of the Fire Management Plan."

"The Secretaries Report to the President indicates that 'helping offset
forest restoration cost' is a major priority of this program," said
Ingalsbee.  "This is inappropriate and could make economic recovery rather
than fuels reduction the primary determinant for projects, encouraging
resource extraction over restoration."

"Additionally, the Report seeks to 'develop and expand markets for
traditionally underutilized small diameter wood and other biomass as a value
added outlet for excessive fuels that have been removed,'" said Holmer.
"Encouraging biomass and chip mills to process small diameter materials will
lead to the same overcutting of western forests that is currently
devastating eastern forests."
"The goal of responsible fire management should be to restore the ecological
process of fire and protect communities living adjacent to or in the
forest," said Holmer.  "Achieving this goal will require halting the root
causes of the current fuel loading situation which are fire suppression,
livestock grazing and logging."  

"Mechanical treatments must be accompanied by prescribed burns," said
Ingalsbee.  "In addition, cows need to be removed from the landscape and
fire suppression activities halted to allow natural fire regimes to resume.
Otherwise, the government is facing an expensive and never ending treadmill
of repeated thinning treatments, that will do nothing to restore natural
ecosystem processes."  A first step the Administration could take is to
retire vacant grazing allotments.  In addition, the Administration could
propose a program of economic assistance to permittees willing to relinquish
their Forest Service grazing allotments. 

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Steve Holmer
Campaign Coordinator

American Lands 
726 7th Street, SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
202/547-9213 fax
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