Democrats work on forest bill alternative

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Mon Sep 9 22:11:34 EST 2002


>From The Oregonian, Sept. 6, 2002, p A8

Democrats work on forest bill alternative
Senators negotiate on drafting a plan to compete with the
administration's initiative on thinning

By JIM BARNETT, The Oregonian
	WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats scrambled Thursday to craft an
alternative to President Bush's "healthy forests" initiative, hoping
to head off what they consider to be an end run around environmental
laws.
	Pressure for Senate action mounted as the administration offered its
own bill at a hearing of the House Resources Committee. The bill
provides for "stewardship contracts" to thin overgrown forests and
limits appeals of federal decisions.
	Negotiations over a Democratic alternative were held in private
meetings among senators throughout the day. Sen. Jeff Bingaman,
D-N.M., led the effort with Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.C., an
aide said.
	"There will be a Democratic alternative, and it is being stitched
together as we speak," said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Bingaman, who
is chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
	Although Wicker declined to offer details of the draft plan, the
Democratic aides said they hoped to focus thinning projects in forests
near populated areas and to avoid pre-empting existing environmental
regulations.
	The competing plans come as both sides try to score political points
with Western voters alarmed by a catastrophic wildfire season in which
about 6 million acres have been consumed.
	Bush, backed by Republicans in control of the House, has laid the
blame for wildfires on nettlesome regulations that can delay a
proposed forest-thinning project for four years or longer. Most House
Democrats have opposed Bush's plan.
	But in the Senate, a handful of influential Western Democrats have
yet to declare their intentions. Several, including Sen. Ron Wyden,
D-Ore., have negotiated with Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who has
circulated a plan similar to that proposed by the administration.
	"Ron is talking with Democratic and Republican collegues and taking
input from environmentalists, the timber community and constitutents
across the state," said Josh Kardon, Wyden's chief of staff.
	Also crucial to Craig's effort are Democrats from timber states in
the South.
	The Senate could take up the healthy forests initiative as soon as
Tuesday, when it is scheduled to resume consideration of the annual
spending bill for the Interior Department.

Posted as a couretsy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
www.oregonwhitetruffles.com



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