Administration and Senate Close to Harmful County Payments Deal

wafcdc at americanlands.org wafcdc at americanlands.org
Mon Sep 11 16:36:49 EST 2000


From: "wafcdc at americanlands.org" <wafcdc at americanlands.org>
Subject: Administration and Senate Close to Harmful County Payments Deal

For Immediate Release: September 11, 2000

Contact Steve Holmer at 202/547-9105 or mailto:wafcdc at americanlands.org

Administration and Senate Close to Harmful County Payments Deal

Negotiations on the county payments bill, S. 1608, are currently underway
between Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Larry Craig (R-ID) and Administration
officials.  

"The proposed compromise bill relies on both timber sale receipts and the
Federal Treasury to pay the counties," said Steve Holmer, Campaign
Coordinator for American Lands.  "But, the deal fails to provide enough
money from the Federal Treasury which will create pressure for more timber
sale receipts and hence more logging."

Wyden and Craig have proposed to cap the Treasury payments at $1.1 billion
over the five year life of the bill.  This cap would force the Forest
Service to maintain logging receipts at current levels, and create a
powerful incentive for continuing harmful timber sales and the logging of
old growth forests which generate larger receipts.  If timber prices were to
fall, the agency would actually need to increase logging above current
levels just to stay even. 

"The Administration is resisting this proposed cap and is pushing to allow
as much funding as necessary to come from the Treasury to make stable county
payments," said Holmer.  "This is a responsible position that would allow
timber sale receipts to fluctuate naturally in the future and remove the
incentive for overcutting the forests."

Last Friday, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who had been expected to offer the
"choice amendment," struck a deal with Sens. Wyden and Craig and agreed to
support the bill.   Language was added to the bill allowing counties to
spend funds on search and rescue, conservation easements, community service
work camps, fire prevention and county planning and forest related
educational opportunities instead of the projects.  

"The counties still lose 15% of their payment to the projects and these
activities and cannot choose to spend the funds to support schools," said
Holmer. 

Despite press reports to the contrary, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert
Torricelli (D-NJ) continue to raise concerns about the bill and may offer an
amendment to address remaining environmental threats.

Other changes to the bill have been made to address environmental concerns,
but significant problems remain.  Under the compromise bill, 50% of the
projects must be for road maintenance and decommissioning, and stream
restoration.  However, the remaining fifty percent could still be used for
logging.

"Funds generated by the projects would be returned to the Treasury to help
offset the cost of the bill," said Holmer.  "This is a positive step that
would reduce the incentive for  money-making projects."  The Office of
Management and Budget is currently estimating the projects will produce $30
million a year in additional revenues. This confirms environmentalists'
concern that the projects will likely include substantial resource extraction. 

Other problems remaining in the bill include:  

 	Inadequate ecological safeguards on the projects.  There is no prohibition
on commercial logging, entry into roadless areas or cutting of old growth. 

 	The funding mechanism under the Wyden/Craig bill allows counties to
receive payments based on an average of  the three highest logging years
which rewards past mismanagement.  In the Pacific Northwest, the average
three-highest years came during the late eighties.  However, the inflated
logging levels of this period were ruled illegal by Federal Courts.  In
fact, the courts found that the Forest Service had systematically overcut
the Ancient Forests and knowingly put endangered species at risk.  Counties
should not be rewarded for these misdeeds.

 	The bill allows states to remain in the antiquated 25% system,
perpetuating an incentive for overcutting in those states.


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Steve Holmer
Campaign Coordinator

American Lands 
726 7th Street, SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
202/547-9105
202/547-9213 fax
wafcdc at americanlands.org
http://www.americanlands.org






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